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African American Culture, History, & Arts: Collections

2023 Black History Month Theme– Black Resistance

photo collage of African American Civil Rights ActivistsAfrican Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction. The 1950s and 1970s in the United States was defined by actions such as sit-ins, boycotts, walk outs, strikes by Black people and white allies in the fight for justice against discrimination in all sectors of society from employment to education to housing. Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Systematic oppression has sought to negate much of the dreams of our griots, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and our freedom fighters, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Septima Clark, and Fannie Lou Hamer fought to realize. Black people have sought ways to nurture and protect Black lives, and for autonomy of their physical and intellectual bodies through armed resistance, voluntary emigration, nonviolence, education, literature, sports, media, and legislation/politics. Black led institutions and affiliations have lobbied, litigated, legislated, protested, and achieved success.

In an effort to live, and maintain and protect economic success Black people have organized/planned violent insurrections against those who enslaved them, such as in Haiti,, and armed themselves against murderous white mobs as seen in Memphis, TN (1892), Rosewood, FL (1923), and New Orleans, LA (1900). 

Education, whether in elementary, secondary, or higher education institutions have been seen as a way for Black people and communities to resist the narrative that Black people are intellectually inferior. When Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week (NHW) in 1926, he saw it as a way to provide a space and resources to critically educate students about their history. The grassroots network of Black teachers used this week not only to lionize individuals and narratives, but also to teach students about racial progress, and as well as shared and collective responsibility. They developed assignments and curriculum to provide students with the tools to succeed. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), were developed by Northern white philanthropists, but they emerged as a space for the formation of activists, artists, business owners, educators, etc. and their continued operation have stood as testament to Black investment and creative thinking in the face of the changing landscape of higher education. Furthermore, students at HBCUs were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movements, and social justice movements from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. -- Association for the Study of African American Life & History

African American Artists

Bob Thompson's Tree (1962, oil on canvas) based on the fantastical, morally charged work of Francisco de Goya,

Bob Thompson's Tree (1962, oil on canvas) based on the fantastical, morally charged work
Francisco de Goya, the Spanish master known for his scathing commentary
on the Spanish royalty and religious persecution in the late 18th century. 

“Horace Pippin/School Studies/1944,” American Paintings, 1900–1945

Horace Pippin, "School Studies"

Robert Torchia, “Horace Pippin/School Studies/1944,” American Paintings, 1900–1945,
NGA Online Editions, (accessed February 04, 2020).

Visit the African American Artists
National Gallery of Art
 for more collections from African-American artists.

The Library of Congress
African American History Digital Collections 

The Rosa Parks Collection came to the Library of Congress in 2014


Northwest African American Museum

2300 South Massachusetts Street

Seattle, WA 98144


Artist: Hiawatha D, in Iconic Black Women


The Schomburg center for research in Black Culture

Daniel J. Evans Library - MS: LIB2300 - 2700 Evergreen Parkway, NE. Olympia, WA 98501 - 360-867-6250