Black History Month-February 2024

Words From: The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. 

The theme for 2024 focuses on celebrating the rich and diverse history of African American arts and artisans. This encompasses various forms of cultural expression, visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary arts, and more. The influence of African, Caribbean, and Black American lived experiences is deeply woven into the fabric of these artistic endeavors.

African American artists have played a crucial role in preserving history, fostering community memory, and empowering their communities. Movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism have been spearheaded by individuals of African descent, setting global standards for popular trends.

The theme also addresses historical challenges faced by people of African descent, as Western intellectuals have historically denied or downplayed their contributions to the arts and history. Despite this, an unbroken chain of Black art production can be traced from antiquity to the present, spanning continents and influencing diverse cultures.

In the 1920s and 30s, the rise of the Black Renaissance and New Negro Movement brought the Black Arts to an international stage. Members of the armed forces, such as James Reese Europe, and artists such as Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker and Lois Mailou Jones brought Black culture and Black American aesthetics internationally, and Black culture began its ascent to becoming a dominant cultural movement to the world. In addition to the Harlem Renaissance, today we recognize that cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans also were home to many Black artists. 

 In the 60's artists covered issues such as pride in one’s heritage and established art galleries and museum exhibitions to show their own work, as well as publications such as Black Art. This period brought us artists such as Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez. The movement would not have been as impactful without the influences from the broader Black world, especially the Negritude movement and the writings of Frantz Fanon.

In 1973, in the Bronx, New York Black musicians (i.e. DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock) started a new genre of music called hip-hop, which comprises five foundational elements (DJing, MCing, Graffiti, Break Dancing and Beat Boxing). Hip-hop performers used technological equipment such as turntables, synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers to make their songs. Since then, hip-hop has continued to be a pivotal force in political, social, and cultural spaces and was a medium where issues such as racial violence in the inner city, sexism, economic disinvestment and others took the forefront.

In celebrating the entire history of African Americans and the arts, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) puts into the national spotlight the richness of the past and present with an eye towards what the rest of the twenty-first century will bring.