In Appreciation of African Americans and the Arts
A compilation of art, films, music, books and TV shows celebrating the Black experience.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has chosen the theme of Black History Month 2024 as “African Americans and the Arts.” Throughout the month of February, people everywhere are invited to reflect upon and celebrate the impact that Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements and more. In recognition of this year’s theme, we recently collaborated with the MacPháidín Library and Stonehill College’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to develop a media list showcasing a small sample of impactful works of art, films, music, books and TV shows from Black creators.
The Embrace by Hank Willis Thomas
Unveiled in January of 2023, the 20-foot-high permanent monument in Boston Common is inspired by an image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugging his wife, Coretta Scott King, after being notified that he was named the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist whose work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Musée du quai Branly, Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art.
Buttons On! by Beau McCall
On exhibit at the Fuller Craft Museum starting March 30, experience the first-ever retrospective for creative artist, Beau McCall, known to many as “The Button Man” for creating unique fashions by sewing buttons onto upcycled materials. Buttons On! will include pieces from his career, which spans four decades.
Black Art: In the Absence of Light
This film produced by HBO Documentary Films highlights the famed “Two Centuries of Black American Art” exhibition by artist David Driskell at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976. This installation featured over 200 works by 63 artists. The documentary seeks to shine a light on generations of African American artists who have helped inspire people everywhere through their cultural contributions. Available at the MacPháidín Library.
The Norton Anthology of African American Literature by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Valerie A. Smith
This collection gathers materials from six periods of Black history (slavery and freedom; Reconstruction; the Harlem Renaissance; Realism, Naturalism and Modernism; the Black Arts Movement; and the period since the 1970s). It includes materials ranging from music, sermons, and folktales, to letters, poetry, short fiction, and more. Available at the MacPháidín Library.
Toni Morrison: Forty Years in the Clearing by Carmen R. Gillespie
Authored by the director of the Griot Institute for Africana Studies at Bucknell University, this book offers a comprehensive review of the Nobel Prize winners’ achievements as a writer, editor, publisher, scholar, artist and teacher. Available at the MacPháidín Library.
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
The playwright behind A Raisin in the Sun was also a well-known civil rights activist. Looking for Lorraine provides an in-depth look at her amazing achievements and extraordinary experiences. Available at the MacPháidín Library.
A Raisin in the Sun
Inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem, Harlem: A Dream Deferred, this 1961 film follows a Black family’s experiences in 1950s Chicago as they deal with housing discrimination, racism and assimilation. The play from which this film is adapted holds historical significance as the first Broadway show written by a Black woman, Lorraine Hansberry. Available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video.
Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 play of the same name, this movie stars Denzel Washington as a former baseball player fighting to come to terms with his past while working to provide for his family in 1950s Pittsburg. For his work as the lead character in this film, Washington, who also produced and directed the movie, was honored with the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture. Viola Davis also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her part in the film. Currently available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video.
The Color Purple
Released in December 2023, this period drama is based on the stage musical The Color Purple, which, in turn, is based on the book by Alice Walker. It is the second film adaptation of this work, following a film released in 1985. It tells the story of Celie, a woman who overcomes hardships in the South during the early 1900s. For her portrayal of Celie’s friend Sofia, actress Danielle Brooks was recently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Support Actress. Oprah Winfrey was also nominated for playing this role in the 1985 film adaptation. Now in theatres.
Beyoncé and Beyond: 2013–2016
Professor Keleta-Mae of the University of Waterloo examines three years in the superstar’s career. Through explorations of how people define what it means to be a Black woman, the researcher discusses Beyoncé’s impact on 21st century feminism. Online book available through the MacPháidín Library.
Sons of Serendip
This classical crossover ensemble is perhaps best known for competing on the ninth season of America’s Got Talent. Since finishing fourth on the NBC competition series, the group, which includes Stonehill alumnus Micah Christian ’06, has released three albums, toured nationally, and performed at Oprah Winfrey's 2020 Vision Tour closing party, the Ron Burton Humanitarian Award Dinner, and the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, among other programs.
The Very Best of Aretha Franklin
Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin was named the greatest singer of all time twice by Rolling Stone. Across a career that spanned five decades, she won 18 Grammy Awards, was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and sold over 75 million records globally. The Very Best of Aretha Franklin is a compilation that includes thirteen of the icon’s first fourteen singles. Compact discs available at the MacPháidín Library.
Produced in the same mockumentary style as hits like The Office, Modern Family and Parks & Recreation, this show focuses on a group of teachers who work tirelessly to provide a quality education to their students at an underfunded elementary school in Philadelphia. In January 2024, series creator and star Quinta Brunson became the first Black woman in 40 years to win the Emmy for Best Comedic Actress. Available to stream on Hulu and Max.
The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder
Stonehill alumna Love Boussiquot ’16, a coordinator for current series at Disney Television Animation, has had a hand in helping shape this cartoon, which follows 14-year-old Penny Proud as she hilariously tries to navigate life with her caring mom, overly protective father, tough-loving grandmother, and rambunctious siblings. Available to stream on Disney+.
The Wonder Years
A reboot of the sitcom from the 1980s, this program, narrated by Don Cheadle, is the winner of the 2022 Peabody Award for Entertainment. It chronicles the life of 12-year-old Dean as he comes of age in a Black, middle-class family in 1960s Alabama. In January 2024, actor Dulé Hill was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of Dean’s father Bill. Available to stream on Netflix.