| By Elizabeth Mohn |
Black History Month in the United States is meant to be a time when Americans learn about and engage with elements of American history that in the past have been omitted from history curricula and history books. Teachers can help their students learn about a topic that is not often covered in-depth in U.S. history classes by encouraging them to interact with the Gale In Context: High School Black Arts Movement portal. The Black Arts Movement was an artistic, cultural, and intellectual movement that started in the late 1960s in the United States. Numerous Black scholars, artists, and activists helped launch the movement, which is sometimes considered to be a part of the wider Black Power movement that emerged in the United States at the same time.
Students can begin their exploration of the Black Arts Movement by reading the portal’s overview to better understand how the movement started and to identify some of its most influential figures. LeRoi Jones, who was better known by his pen name Amiri Baraka, is often seen as the founder of the movement. Baraka also started the Black Arts Repertory Theatre in Harlem, New York, which became an important artistic center for the movement. Teachers can encourage students to learn more about Baraka by reading his biography, which tells about Baraka’s personal life as well as his influence in the movement. Students can learn about the praise and criticism Baraka received during his lifetime from a remembrance of Baraka, which aired after his death in 2014. They can also learn about some of the noteworthy works that Baraka and other artists created during the Black Arts Movement in this New York Times article. The article argues that the theatrical canon should be expanded to include works from the Black Arts Movement and, more widely, from playwrights who were not white males.
The Black Arts Movement portal can help students better understand the mood and priorities of the movement by learning about one of the most famous works to come out of it. The Wall of Respect was a mural created on a building on Chicago’s South Side in 1967. The mural featured images of numerous Black artists, writers, and intellectuals. Teachers can help students gain a new perspective of the movement and those closely involved with it by encouraging them to read an article about the Wall of Respect that was written by the son of Norman Parish Jr., one of the movement’s important figures. In this article, Norman Parish III reflects on his father’s role in the movement, the mural, and the importance of the movement in general. Students can also see an image of the mural, which was destroyed by a fire in 1971.
The Black Arts Movement portal can help students learn about an aspect of American history they may not have known about before. Those interested in the topic can learn more by reviewing critical essays and academic journal articles about the movement, its central figures, and its legacy. Teachers can encourage students to learn even more by visiting the Poetry Foundation’s website about the movement or by reading this book review to find an outside resource they may want to access in the future.