Black History Inspired Art Projects

Black History Inspired Art Projects

Black History is American History. Black artists, musicians, authors, athletes and inspirational leaders should be celebrated all year around. Not just in February. Not just when we talk about slavery, because we can't talk about Abe Lincoln without talking about slavery. Not just because Martin Luther King, Jr. has great quotes to repost. Not just because Rosa Parks (sort of) sparked the Civil Rights Movement....SPOILER ALERT she wasn't the first woman to not give up her seat! The first woman, Claudette Colvin, wasn't considered to be "right for the movement" because she was too young and "emotional", which folks later solidified their beliefs of her when she became pregnant by an older man in the summer following her arrest. So Rosa Parks, a seamstress and NAACP secretary, became the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But with all of that perfectly curated history out there, it still deserves more than a month. The impacts of this narrative is in the daily lives of our fellow Americans. It is in the schools, communities, and funding that our government controls. So, how do we educate our youth on the daily struggles of African-Americans, past and present, rooted in a system created to segregate and keep them down? How do we break the system we live in? How do we shift the narrative that segregation has ended, when it is still so very clear in our cities? We educate. We share stories, art, and music. ALL.YEAR.LONG. I believe it is ok to do more work during Black History Month, but you better do work all year. I saw a quote a while back on Educators for Justice's IG page that said, "If your Black students don't feel seen in January, they won't be fooled in February."-Angela Jones, PhD and this felt so very important. So, while I build a full curriculum of projects for Black History Month, I also teach about black artists all throughout the year.

The projects we created this year for Black History Month are:

Kindergarten-Kente Cloth

1st Grade-Upcycled Art Village Inspired by Artist Tyree Guyton and The Heidelberg Project

2nd Grade-3D African Masks

3rd Grade-Cut Paper Freedom Quilts

4th Grade-Jean Michel-Basquiat Abstract Portraits

5th Grade-Romare Bearden Cityscape and Landscape Collages

Middle School-Kehinde Wiley and Bisa Butler Inspired Mixed Media Portraits


Beyond this month's projects, I am sharing some other artists I have taught my students about throughout the year or in years past, all of which can be used for teaching art concepts, but also share about Black experiences in America:

Jacob Lawrence for his use of simplified shapes to create figures

Reggie Laurent for his colorful abstract art that uses lines and shapes

Kara Walker for her use of silhouettes as installation pieces

Faith Ringgold for her story-telling and quilt work

William H. Johnson for his unique exploration of perspective

Layla Ali as a female digital artist

Beauford Delaney and his colorful, abstract portraits


Finally, my hope in sharing this post with all of you is that as you build your curriculums and plan projects and units for your students this year and next, that you give space to some of these artists. I hope that you have discussions with students about why some of these names are not considered alongside "the greats" because of the color of their skin and their subject matter. Help students see the connections between the white washed history and the white washed art history. Help them learn about Black history all year long using art as the launching pad. Yes, the conversations need to start at home. But guess what? Our classrooms are home for so many of our students who are trying to navigate this world with big ideas and emotions, wanting answers to questions, and a safe space to ask.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.