Black History Month Recap: A Celebration of Black Art
Black History Month may be over, but the opportunity to learn about Black history, including the individuals and events that shaped it, doesn't have to end today. We want to encourage you to keep celebrating the achievements of Black trailblazers regularly. Make it into a habit! Looking for a new movie or TV series to watch? Purposely seek out one starring and featuring Black creatives telling Black stories, like The Hate U Give. Need new reading material? Try fiction and nonfiction book options by some of the most talented Black writers ever. Interested in brushing up on your history and learning about events that maybe weren't covered in school? Visit a Black history museum in your area. Want to expand your musical horizons? Take a little trip into the past and connect with groundbreaking and influential Black artists like Miles Davis.
We started February with a 'How To Celebrate Black History Month' guide. We also featured prominent Black men and women regularly throughout the week via social media in order to educate and inform our followers. To cap off the month, we'd like to spotlight some great Black art we believe everyone should be familiar with. Think of these suggestions of movies, museums, books, and albums as a jumping-off point so that you can continue exploring Black art on your own.
Groundbreaking Black Films
Although Hollywood continues to cast not nearly enough Black creatives in film, there are still plenty of enduring and must-see works that speak to the Black experience. We have recommended six in our list, but we encourage you to do your own research and find other titles that will inform, educate, entertain, and inspire you.
Do The Right Thing (1989) -- Spike Lee’s masterpiece confronting racism in America is a must-see that remains remarkably relevant several decades since its release in 1989.
Selma (2014) -- Directed by Ava Duvernay, Selma is the riveting story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure voting rights for Black people and other minorities. It led to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Hidden Figures (2016) -- The story of three Black women mathematicians -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson -- working at NASA, who were instrumental in launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
The Hate U Give (2018) -- This timely film, based on the book by Angie Thomas, explores the aftermath of a police shooting of a Black teen, and how it impacts not only those close to the victim but the entire Black community.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) -- Based on the book by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is the story of injustice and enduring love. Neither happy nor hopeless, it is nevertheless a movie that will stay with you for a long time.
The Color Purple (1985) -- Another masterpiece of a film based on the book written by Alice Walker, The Color Purple is a classic that deserves multiple viewings.
Must-Visit Black History Museums
There is so much you can learn by visiting a Black history museum. These institutions not only educate the public, but also make sure Black stories continue to endure and reach younger generations. Though some are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, you can still visit and explore them online for a wealth of information. Many of these museums also have special exhibitions and events to educate about Black history and the Black experience, and are definitely worth a visit (virtual or otherwise) during these times. Sign up for these museums' email newsletters to stay up-to-date and also consider making a donation if you can. Click on the links below to be taken to the respective museum’s website where you can browse on your own.
Revolutionary Black Literature
One of the best ways to celebrate Black voices and their contributions to our culture is to read literature by Black authors. These authentic accounts can help us better understand the nuances of the Black experience past and present, and some offer perspective on how we can move forward from America’s roots in racism. We think these six titles are worth checking out, but use them as a starting point for your own personal collection!
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) - A profound, open letter from Coates to his son where he explains the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture” and what it means to be a Black man and father in the United States.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (2014) - We Should All Be Feminists analyzes what it means to be a feminist, where Adiche argues that "feminist" isn't an insult, but rather a label that should be embraced by all.
Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim (2018) - Well-Read Black Girl is an inspirational collection of essays by Black women writers about the importance of recognizing yourself in literature. The idea spawned from a Brooklyn-based book club and digital platform of the same name that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature & sisterhood.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969) - The first in a seven-volume series, this autobiography describes the early years of renowned writer and poet Maya Angelou. It’s a coming-of-age story that shows how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi (2019) - A must-read for anyone who posted a black box on Instagram in 2020 (if you know, you know!).The book discusses concepts of racism and Kendi's proposals for anti-racist individual actions and systemic changes, because being simply “not racist” just isn’t enough.
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (1953) - In his semi-autobiographical novel, Baldwin tells the story of John Grimes - an intelligent teenager in 1930s Harlem - and explores his relationship to his family, his church, and effects of racism while growing up in New York City.
Iconic Black Music
You’d be hard-pressed to find many genres of music that haven’t been positively influenced by Black people. Everything from blues, R&B, and jazz to country music, rock ‘n roll, and the pop rap songs we hear dominating the charts ALL share influences from Black culture. A great way to celebrate Black History Month is to educate yourself on record-breaking Black artists like Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis & more greats who are more than worthy of a spot on your playlists.
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis (1959) - Davis’ “Kind of Blue” is a jazz masterpiece that’s often used to convert casual listeners into fans of the genre and is frequently cited as the greatest jazz album of all time. Beyond impressive!
Live at the Apollo - James Brown (1963) - James Brown and the Famous Flames first live album was a raw, show-stopping & bonafide hit. It spent 66 weeks on the Billboard album chart and set Brown on a course for incredible crossover success in the mid 1960s and beyond.
Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder - (1976) Impress your parents and all of the OGs in your life by refining your musical taste with one of Stevie Wonder’s most beloved albums. It’s a progressive, soulful and timeless classic that gave us hits like “Isn’t She Lovely” for crying out loud!
Thriller - Michael Jackson (1982) - Despite controversies around Jackson’s personal life, his legacy as one of the greatest to ever make music was solidified early in his solo career with Thriller. Revisit fun tracks like "Beat It" and "Billie Jean," and dust off those old dance moves you learned from the iconic "Thriller" music video. Celebrate the King of Pop for the icon he is!
The Score - The Fugees (1996) - Although the hip hop trio that is The Fugees (a.k.a. Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill & Pras) only graced fans with two studio albums, their impact on hip hop could be felt for generations to come. With dope singles like "Ready or Not" and "Killing Me Softly" that enjoyed heavy radio play, you’ll really enjoy taking this nostalgic trip back to the 90s.
Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 - Jill Scott (2000) Jill Scott’s debut album is a work of art! Her iconic soulful voice and powerful poetry take you on a beautiful melodic journey. It’s really no surprise that Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 earned the artist four Grammy nominations & went double platinum.