Exploring the 2024 Black History Month Theme with Gale In Context 

5 min read

| By Elizabeth Mohn |

Americans celebrate Black History Month each February. Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) selects a theme on which Americans can focus their research and attention during the monthlong celebration. (Find out more about annual themes at the ASALH website.) In 2024, the theme for Black History Month is “African Americans and the Arts.” Black Americans have made vital contributions to all aspects of the arts in the United States. Teachers and students can learn about some of these important contributions and meaningfully commemorate Black History Month using resources from Gale In Context: High School. These resources cover a range of topics, including art movements, music, and literature.

Between the mid-1910s and the 1930s, the Harlem Renaissance art movement helped shape American history and culture. The movement began in the Harlem neighborhood in New York and developed partly because of the Great Migration, which saw thousands of African Americans migrate from the South to northern cities—including New York. The Harlem Renaissance included works of literature, visual art, and music. Students can learn more about the history of the movement and some of its important contributors in the Harlem Renaissance portal. After reading the overview, students can explore the portal’s resources to learn even more. The articles, videos, audio broadcasts, images, and biographies will add context and may help engage students’ interest. For example, students who enjoy multimedia resources can watch the video “Literary Icons You NEED to Know from the Harlem Renaissance” to learn about authors from this period. Or they could listen to the audio broadcast “Sculptor Augusta Savage Said Her Legacy Was the Work of Her Students” to learn about Savage, who faced racism and other challenges during her career.

The Black Arts Movement portal is another engaging resource students can access to learn about the influential art movement that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. The Black Arts Movement was closely related to the Black Power Movement, which was popular in the United States around the same time. Students wanting to learn more about this movement and its most influential contributors can begin by reading the overview, which will help them better understand the historical context of the movement and may interest them in learning more about the people involved in the movement and its legacy. The essay “Angels and Tricksters: Looking Back at the Black Arts Movement and Measuring Its Impact Now” gives a first-person perspective of the movement from someone involved in it and will help students understand the meaning of the movement when it was happening and the legacy it has left.

Students can also engage in this year’s Black History Month theme by learning about Black Americans’ contributions to music. The Hip Hop and Rap Music portal discusses two music genres that were originated by African Americans and that continue to be led and shaped by them. The Tupac Shakur portal provides more context about the rap genre, as it describes the life of one of the most famous rappers in American history.

Students may also be interested in learning about individual singers and musicians who shaped music in the United States. For example, the Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington portals provide readers with information about influential African American musicians from the first half of the twentieth century. Students may also be interested in reviewing the Josephine Baker and Beyonce portals to learn about two Black women who—though they were famous at different periods in American history—were famous singers and cultural icons.

African Americans have been extremely influential in shaping American literature. Students may opt to start their research by exploring resources related to individual authors and their works. For example, students may be interested in accessing information and resources in the Zora Neale Hurston portal, and the Their Eyes Were Watching God portal. Neale Hurston was an influential author during the Harlem Renaissance. Neale Hurston was most famous for novels, especially Their Eyes Were Watching God, and her writing was notable and influential because it acknowledged African American life and culture at a time when few books did.

James Baldwin was another famous, influential author from the twentieth century. The James Baldwin portal will provide students with information about the author’s life and work and offer insight into his legacy. The Fire Next Time portal will help students learn about one of Baldwin’s books, which continues to interest and influence modern audiences. If students are interested in Baldwin and his work, teachers could also recommend that they explore the Between the World and Me portal. Between the World and Me is a 2015 book of essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates was inspired by the epistolary format of The Fire Next Time and used the same format in his book.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mohn is a writer and an educational content developer. When she’s not reading or writing, Elizabeth is usually spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, or working in her garden.

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