African American
History & Heritage Site

*** Do You Shop at ***
Please support this site by using this link!

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks!
Search African American when you arrive

It's AMERICAN History & Heritage!

Main Menu

Copyright 2002 Gerri Gribi ||| Email ||| Updated 08/07/15
Please acknowledge

Recommended by NEA Today
School Library Journal's Site of the Week
Kathy Schrock's "SOS Web Site of the Week"
Johnson Subvention Award, Society for American Music

||| Books ||| Educational Video ||| TV on DVD ||| Composers ||| Women ||| Higher Education ||| "Lift Every Voice"||| Travel

Teacher Toolkit Grades K-12
Contents ||| Reference Online ||| Reference Offline ||| FAQ ||| Professional Development ||| Elementary ||| History ||| Language Arts ||| Music ||| Math & Science ||| Visual Arts ||| Museums & Historic Sites ||| Link Policy ||| About the Author

***African American Posters at ***

*** 2017 African American Calendars! ***

 Visual Arts

 Did you know: You view African American art every day!
The image of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the U.S. dime was created by sculptor Selma Burke, whose legacy as an artist spanned over 50 years. Though the dime is engraved with the initials J.S. (John Sinnock, chief engraver at the Mint) according to the National Archives and Records Administration of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park NY, the source of the image on the coin was the "sculpture of FDR done by Selma Burke" completed shortly before the President's death in 1945.
Source: BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA by Darlene Clark Hine et al. Page 193

1. How to Find Images of African American Art and Artists on the Web

2. Web Sites

3. Lesson Plans

4. Books

5. Videos

1. How To Find Images of African American Art and Artists on the Web:

Google Image Search - When you know the artist's name

Enter the name of the artist "in quotes", for example, "Aaron Douglas"

In this case, you'll be presented with several options (and some other folks with the same name!) Choose something like "Aaron Douglas Art" and you'll find the right one.


If you don't know the names of African American artists, or to explore artists new to you, this is the best place to start.

This site is a comprehensive index of every artist represented in online museum sites. Search by artist name or browse by nationality, such as "African American" (lists 80 artists chronologically.)

Each artist's page lists nationality, genre and birth-death dates, links to images of their art, and articles online. It is also cross-indexed: for example the entry for Aaron Douglas links to other Harlem Renaissance artists.

As opposed to Google, this is a directory compiled by humans. You will not find as many images with your search, nor will you find artists' portraits, but you also won't receive unrelated material of people with similar names.

For biographical information on artists, see the Web Sites below

Back to top of Visual Arts

Web Sites

African American Masters Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Online exhibit features sixty-one works by artists such as Augusta Savage, Romare Bearden, William H. Johnson and Gordon Parks that reveal a special awarenss of "being Black." You'll find the itinerary at the site, but if you can't travel, you can still enjoy the exhibtion online.

David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park

Born in 1931 into a family of Georgia sharecroppers, David C. Driskell is today a renowned painter and collector of art, as well as one of the leading authorities on the subject of African American art and the black artist in American society. Browse through the Center's past and present exhibits online.

African-Americans in the Visual Arts: B. David Swartz Memorial Library, Long Island University

Features over 60 black artists, with biographical information (no art works) and links to examples of their works. Includes painters, sculptors, muralists, engravers, portraitists, print makers, illustrators, photographers, woodcut printers, lithographers, folk artists, and cartoonists. Articles provide a good overview about:

Romare Beardon Foundation

An outstanding web site with online exhibits, biographical information and educational resources.

The Art of Romare Bearden

Online exhibit and classroom resources to accompany the 2003-2004 retrospective. See also the companion book Fine, Ruth E. The Art of Romare Bearden . Abrams, 2003.

Publicly-owned Art by African American Painters

An exhibit of 12 paintings from the National Museum of American Art (NMAA) with descriptive details. Each can be viewed as thumbnail (loads quickly on slow modems) or in high-quality resolution.

NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education Grants & Programs

Innovation grants, fine arts grants for teachers of at-risk students, awards and more. "Think Big!"

History Detectives (PBS) - Season 7 Episode 9 (watch online at PBS)

WPA Mural Studies - This episode focuses on the art of Thelma Johnson Streat, of whom Artist Diego Rivera said, “The work of Thelma Johnson Streat is in my opinion one of the most interesting manifestations in this country at the present. It is extremely evolved and sophisticated enough to reconquer the grace and purity of African and American art.”

Back to top of Visual Arts

Lesson Plans

Black History-Jacob Lawrence's Style
Ask Eric Lesson Plans
Grades 3-6: Does not require student internet access

"Through his biographical paintings, he has conveyed his feelings of what it means to be black in America. This lesson provides the students the experience of creating a biographical painting of an event in African American history."

1920's Variety Show
Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access
Middle School, Estimated Time 4 hours: Does not require student internet access

"By participating in a variety show of literary readings, musical and dance performances, and an art exhibition, students will gain an appreciation of the cultural achievements of the Harlem Renaissance."

Evidence of Protest in African American Art
Towson University: Heartfield Lesson Plans
High School, 5 or more classes: Requires student internet access

"Through exploring the web students will learn to connect African American artwork with the struggle that is portrayed. Students will also learn to express feelings about art through writing and the design of a multi-media presentation. [...] This lesson plan utilizes the World Wide Web, therefore students must be competent in accessing information and searching the web. Students must also be able to create a basic Microsoft Powerpoint Presentation."

African-American Art and Political Dissent During the Harlem Renaissance
Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Grades 10-12, Advanced Placement Studio Art and Advanced Art
Suggested Time is 35 days: Does not require student internet access

"This unit will introduce these studio art students to the visual culture of African American art. This unit will also teach students about the history of the Harlem Renaissance from the beginning of the early 1900's to the fall of the Renaissance in the early 1950's. Through this unit students will also learn to analyze and critique the political statements that were represented in visual form."

Includes list of all the artworks used in the unit, and the books from which teacher can make slides. You can also find many of them online.

Heroes in Art
Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access
High School, Estimated Time: 2-3 hours: Does not require student internet access

"By exploring the life and portraits of Frederick Douglass, students will gain an understanding of the history of slavery in the United States. While further examining an anti-slavery speech written by Douglass and a modern sculpture by Richard Hunt, students will begin to understand the concept of heroism and develop speech-writing and speaking skills."

African American Literature in Art
Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access
High School, Estimated Time: 2 class periods. Does not require student internet access

"Students compare art and literature by examining a contemporary painting by Glenn Ligon and the essay by James Baldwin that inspired it. Students then write an essay about a personal experience that relates to the theme of being an "outsider."

Jacob Lawrence Lesson Plans: All Levels

Members of The Speed Art Museum's 2000-2001 Teacher Advisory Board prepared these lesson plans to compliment a tour of the Jacob Lawrence special exhibition at the Speed.

People of African Descent
Requires student internet access

This lesson plan introduces a selection of historical works by artists of African descent and portraits of individuals of African descent in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada

Back to top of Visual Arts

Arranged by reading level, though illustrated books are useful at any level. Also grouped where appropriate.

Sullivan, Charles ed. Children of Promise: African-American Literature and Art for Young People. New York: Harry Abrams, 2001. (Middle School) Read more at

Claiming 100 poems, folk songs and literary excerpts along with 80 color and b/w illustrations, this book presents an attractive and appealing introduction for children. It provides brief biographical notes (1-2 sentence) and many of the poems and prose are simply snippets, but it's designed to whet the appetite for something more, something it does admirably.

Lawrence, Jacob. The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: HarperCollins,1993. Middle School. & up. Read more at

60 panels of Lawrence's epic narrative Migration series, which he created in the years 1940-41. Tells of the journey of African Americans who left their homes in the South around the time of World War I and traveled to "The Promised Land" of the North in search of better lives.

Hine, Darlene C. and Kathleen Thompson, editors. Facts on File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America, Volume III: Dance, Sports and Visual Arts. Facts on File 1997. Middle School - Adult. Read more at

Biographies, illustrations, and background information for each section.

Arnette, Paul & William Arnette, Executive Editors. Souls Grown Deep, African American Vernacular Art of the South: Tree gave the dove a leaf. Atlanta: Tinwood Books, 2000. High School & up. Read more at

Works by and essays about 40 African American vernacular (folk or self-taught) artists, with 800 color photographs. Covers just about every medium or material you can imagine. The definitive work on the topic.

Danto, Arthur C., et. al. Testimony, Vernacular Art of the African-American South: The Ronald & June Shelp Collection. New York: Harry Abrams, 2001. High School & up. Read more at

More than 100 photographs of work by 27 self-taught artists. This book is not as extensive as Souls Grown Deep, but it's also less expensive... and still provides an outstanding introduction to the subject.

Bearden, Romare, and Harry Henderson. A History of African-American Artists from 1792 to the Present. New York: Pantheon, 1993. Currently out of print, but used copies are available at Amazon

A comprehensive and lavishly illustrated history. Focuses on the lives and careers of more than 50 significant artists in six historical periods or topics: "The Late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries"; "The Twenties and the Black Renaissance"; "Emergence of African-American Artist During the Depression"; "The Naive, Self-taught Artists"; "Art Departments in African-American Colleges"; and "Post-World War II African-American Artists."

Lewis, Samella S. African American Art and Artists. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Read more at

Covers 18th Century to the present, lavishly illustrated with works drawn from historical and private collections around the country.

Patton, Sharon F. African-American Art. Oxford University Press, 1998. Read more at

Places art within the African American experience. "Colonial America and the Young Republic, 1700-1820"; "Nineteenth-Century America, the Civil War and Reconstruction"; "Twentieth-Century America and Modern Art 1900-1960"; "Twentieth-Century America: the evolution of a Black aesthetic."
320 pp.; 95 color plates, 53 b/w photos, halftones, linecuts and maps. A bargain at under $15!

Painter, Nell Irvin. Creating Black Americans: African American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2006. Read more and Order at

The past isn't what it used to be.

That's one of the threads which runs throughout this engaging narrative of African American history from 1619 to the present. Too often students misconstrue history as being carved in stone but as this book illustrates - literally, for it includes nearly 150 works of art which provide comment upon on historical events - interpretations of the past change as new facts come to light, or are viewed through a more diverse lens and connected to current events. For example, Painter frequently uses the word "terrorist" when referring to white supremacists who have used violence to limit the rights and economic development of black Americans for centuries. It's a word which is not only appropriate, but more meaningful to contemporary students.

Though not an art history book per se (it does not provide analysis of the art, only descriptions which place it in historical context) there is biographical information about each artist at the end of the book. Engaging and highly readable, I recommend this book to anyone seeking a general overview of African American history and culture. I think it would be particularly useful as a text for high school Advanced Placement courses.

Back to top of Visual Arts


Against The Odds: The artists of the Harlem Renaissance . Produced written and directed by Amber Edwards. Videocassette. PBS Home Video, 1998. 60 minutes. Middle School & up. Read more at

"Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s was the scene of a passionate outburst of creativity by African-American visual artists. This documentary tells how black artists triumphed over the prejudice and segregation that kept their work out of mainstream galleries and exhibitions, and recalls the vibrancy of Harlem in the roaring twenties. You'll view over 130 paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures, along with rare archival footage of artists at work."

African American Artists Series: L & S Video

28-minute videos with study guides provide an in-depth look at each artist's life and work. Middle School & up.

Art of Romare Beardon 30 minutes on one disc. Produced by Homevision for PBS, 2003. Order at

"The inspired diversity of artist Romare Bearden's life sweeps viewers up in this compact documentary. From the American South to Pittsburgh, Harlem, and the Caribbean, Bearden displayed a unique, eclectic mix of styles, from his early paintings and watercolors to his collages, large-scale public murals, and late landscapes. Narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, with readings from Bearden's work by actor Danny Glover. "

I'll Make Me A World. Executive Producer Henry Hampton. 6 Videocassettes, 60 minutes each. PBS Video, 1999. Out of print, but still available through libraries.

Profiles African American musicians, artists and authors throughout twentieth century America. Each segment is 60 minutes. Out of Print, but you can still find it at many libraries.

Back to top of Visual Arts