Welcome to Black History Month 2024, where this year's theme is African American in the Arts. African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment. Artistic and cultural movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism, have been led by people of African descent and set the standard for popular trends around the world.
William Alexander Brown, also known as William Henry Brown, was an American playwright and theatrical producer. He is considered the first known black playwright in America. In 1816, Brown opened a summer tea garden in New York called the African Grove Theatre to cater to the community of free Blacks. This first resident all-Black theatre company featured music, theatrical, and occasionally outdoor entertainment. During the Harlem Renaissance the Apollo Theater was frequented by black performers, who, during the early 20th century, were not allowed to perform at many other venues. The theater was a prominent venue on the primarily black "Chitlin' Circuit", though many shows featured actors of different races. Black theatre boasts award-winning playwrights, actors, directors, choreographers, designers, and theatre companies. It refined and redefined the popular minstrel tradition-America's first pure form of entertainment. It helped to originate and shape America's musical comedy format.
Black music shapes the lives of so many people the world over, and it's been that way for centuries. The roots and impact of Black music go much deeper than catchy songs and popular artists. For the Black community, Black music has always been a messenger, an outlet, and a space of freedom. Brought to America in captivity and sold into slavery, Africans carried their culture with them as best they could. Music and dance an integral part of African life became an important part of life for blacks in America. Both slaves and free blacks used music as an accompaniment to work, worship, and celebration.
African American filmmaking began in the silent era where independent producers made movies, known as race films, for segregated audiences. Like the vast majority of silent era film productions, most race films of this period are lost. In fact, hardly any material survives that was shot by Black filmmakers prior to 1920. Storytelling, in its essence, is an instrument — a means to educate, revolutionize, and even serve as subtle propaganda. While entertainment captivates, it also has the power to challenge, reshape narratives, and incite change. Black cinema stands as a testament to this transformative power. Beyond the captivating visuals and gripping narratives, it serves as a profound reflection of our history, our struggles, and our triumphs.
Black art has the power to educate and inspire. It provides a window into the lives and experiences of Black people, and it helps to deepen our understanding of the world. Through Black art, we can see the beauty, resilience, and strength of the Black community and the struggles they have faced and overcome. Black art and creativity brings the black story in America to life. This representation shows black boys and girls that there is enough room for them to be creative and take up space.