Inside: A collection of posts and resources with artworks by black artists, civil rights art, African art, art projects, book suggestions, and more to teach Black History art lessons.
When students are exposed to a variety of works of art, they learn about the world and themselves. Children deserve to see the wide variety of possibilities in art, both in terms of art making and the artists behind the works.
Black History Month is a time to discuss the history and celebrate the contributions of black culture and individuals. These lessons should not be kept solely in the history classroom. Looking at art helps students develop empathy, flex thinking and observation skills, connect with history, get in touch with their creative side, and savor the human spirit. Black History Month offers art teachers a fantastic opportunity to feature black artists and artworks about black history in their classroom.
To support art teachers and ensure that they have a variety of artworks to choose from, this post is a collection of Black History Month art lessons from Art Class Curator, all of which you’ll find links to below. Most of the posts include looking questions, tips, information, and resources to help you teach the works of art.
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Free Printable Art Worksheets
The more time students spend looking at art, the easier it is for them to explore the narratives, techniques, and meanings behind the artworks. Take learning to a deeper level with a ready-to-go art lessons from the Art Appreciation Worksheet Bundle.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!
1. Pick a black history artwork below
2. Print one of the Art Appreciation Worksheets
3. Watch with joy as your students connect with and interpret art
Black History Month Art Lessons
This list of black history month art lessons is of course not a full representation of all black artists. These are the artists we have written about to date on Art Class Curator. We will update this post as we create new resources!
Kehinde Wiley Art Lesson
Wiley is best known for painting young black people, often placing them in into versions of portraits from art history. His paintings fuse the past and present in ways that force us to confront our notions of wealth, importance, race, and gender. In this lesson, put a Wiley artwork next to the artwork is was inspired by and lead an art discussion. This Kehinde Wiley Art Lesson blog post includes discussion questions, interpretation activities, as well as classroom extensions.
Betye Saar is an American artist known for her assemblage and collage artworks.
Betye Saar Art Lesson
Saar uses stereotypical and potentially-offensive material to make social commentary, which makes her work an excellent way to teach kids about the world, acceptance, and empathy. In this lesson, students discuss an assemblage Saar created around a depiction of Aunt Jemima and watch a video of the artist discussing the work. This Betye Saar Art Lesson also includes several project ideas and extensions.
Lesson: The Liberation of Aunt Jemima
Augusta Savage was an American sculptor and prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. She opened her own studio and became an influential teacher.
Augusta Savage Art Lesson
There have been few sculptors who can capture emotion in a subject like Augusta Savage. In this Augusta Savage Art Lesson, students learn about her life, discuss some of her work, and read In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor.
Faith Ringgold is an award-winning American painter, writer, sculptor, and performance artist. She is best known for her narrative quilts.
Faith Ringgold Art Lesson
Ringgold started out as a painter and focused much of her art on telling the stories of the Civil Rights Movement and her experiences growing up in Harlem. On a trip to Europe in 1972, Ringgold experiences some Nepali artworks that used fabrics around the border. This inspired her to start making quilt paintings, and those are the artworks she’s become best known for. In this Faith Ringgold Art Lesson, students dive into Ringgold’s The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles and imagine what it would be like to be the fictional woman featured in the artwork. To extend the lesson, students complete a portrait project and read Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House or one of Ringgold’s other children’s books.
Romare Bearden Art Lesson
Featured in Multicultural Kid Blogs, this Romare Bearden Art Lesson recaps Bearden’s life, explores his art, and includes a collection of projects, books, and lessons.
Lesson: The Art of Romare Bearden
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Henry Ossawa Tanner was a world-renowned American artist best known for his religious artworks.
Henry Ossawa Tanner Art Lesson
This Henry Ossawa Tanner Art Lesson features several artworks from the man who was “one of the first African-American artists to achieve a reputation in both America and Europe”. Six of Tanner’s artworks are presented for use with the Charlotte Mason Picture Study Technique.
Yinka Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist whose work delves into cultural identities, colonialism, and globalisation. He is best known for his sculptural installations.
Yinka Shonibare Art Lesson
The Swing is Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s best known work and is an icon of the Rococo style. Shonibare recreated the famous artwork and gave us a lot to think about regarding race, class, and multiculturalism. In this Yinka Shonibare Art Lesson, students compare and contrast the two artworks.
Prince Twins Seven-Seven
Prince Twins Seven-Seven was a Nigerian painter, musician, actor, writer, and poet. He was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2005.
Prince Twins Seven-Seven Art Lesson
Black History Month Art Projects
The internet outside of Art Class Curator has lots of great black history month art lessons as well! Check out these links.
- Freedom Quilts by Colors of my Day — Upper Elementary students create quilt squares and write poems or short stories based on the book The Patchwork Patch: A Quilt Map to Freedom.
- Grades K-1: Art Projects for Black History Month by Scholastic — Four art projects for young elementary students inspired by famous black individuals.
- Historical Genre Drawing Silhouettes by Incredible @rt Department — Inspired by Kara Walker’s silhouettes, middle to high school students research a historical event and create an silhouettes based on the subject and insert their likeness into the work.
- Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jazz-Inspired Painting, Mind Maps, and Getting Your Work Out There by Lauren Rouatt — 3rd grade students learn about Jean-Michel Basquiat and create paintings inspired by his work.
- Basquiat-Inspired Self-Portraits by Art Room Britt — Early elementary students look at and discuss Basquiat’s work, then create self-portraits with free-association elements.
- Horace Pippin Imagination Drawings by Deep Space Sparkle — Upper elementary students create self-portraits based on Pippin’s work and inspired by the book, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.
- Horace Pippin Lesson Plan by Trish Maunder — An art-making workshop designed for students in grades 3-6, based on Pippin’s The Domino Players.
- Decoding Jacob Lawrence by The Art of Education — Upper elementary students analyze Lawrence’s Forward, reflect on Harriet Tubman and the institution of slavery, and create an artwork that tells an important story.
- Jacob Lawrence’s Painted Stories by Crayola — Upper elementary students learn about Lawrence’s life, research a significant historical event, and create an artwork based on what they learn.
- Mary Edmonia Lewis Lesson by Scholastic & Michael’s — For grades 6 through 12, students learn the basics of sculpture and create a bust of the prominent civil rights leader.
Children’s Books about Black Artists
This collection of highly rated children’s books about black artists are a wonderful way to share information about the lives of black artists with elementary students. Each book is marked with recommended student ages and a link to purchase the book.
Famous Black Artists Biographies
Integrate historical and cultural knowledge into your Black History Month art lessons with in-depth biographies and short videos about famous black artists.
- Augusta Savage
- Edmonia Lewis
- Jacob Lawrence
- Horace Pippin
- Laura Wheeler Waring
- Jean-Michel Basquiat
- Simmie Knox
- James Van Der Zee
- Henry Ossawa Tanner
- Faith Ringgold
- Lorna Simpson / Who is Lorna Simpson?
- Betye Saar
- Gwendolyn Bennett
- E. Simms Campbell
- Gordon Parks
- Kara Walker
Civil Rights Art
Art is such a vital tool to understanding the emotions, beliefs, and ideas of people throughout history. Art gives us insights into people like no other medium can. Consider using artworks about the Civil Rights era from the collections below for your Black History Month art lessons.
Black History Month Art Lessons
From native African art to modern artworks by black artists from around the world, these pieces will get your students talking and connected to art.
African American Artists
- Portraits for a New Century: Kehinde Wiley Art Lesson
- The Liberation of Aunt Jemima
- The Art of Augusta Savage
- Faith Ringgold’s Celebration of African American Women
- The Art of Romare Bearden
- Henry Ossawa Tanner
- Discrimination is Not Protection by Lorna Simpson
- Ladder for Booker T. Washington by Martin Puryear
Black Artists from Around the World
- Yinka Shonibare’s The Swing: Culture & Identity in a Global Society
- Twins Seven-Seven’s Healing of Abiko Children
- Art Around the World in 30 Days – Angola — This African Art Lesson features a sculpture from the Chokwe people of Northeastern Angola with discussion questions, a learning activity, and museum resources.
- Art Around the World in 30 Days – Nigeria — The artwork in this African Art Lesson comes from the Court of Benin and includes discussion questions, a project idea, and several resources covering the history of the Kingdom of Benin.
- Interpreting the Power of the Kongo Nkisi N’Kondi — A fantastic African Sculpture Art Lesson for middle schoolers to explore the meaning, function, and purpose of the Nkisi N’Kondi sculptures, complete with discussion questions, kinesthetic and drawing activities, a PowerPoint, and information on the history of these intriguing figures.
- Art Around the World in 30 Days – Democratic Republic of the Congo — Focused on a contemporary artwork from artist Trigo Piula, this African Art Lesson ties in with the Nkisi N’Kondi Art Lesson above and includes discussion questions and a project idea.
- Kuba Mask — This Wordless Wednesday post includes resources related to mask from the Kuba Kingdom, a pre-colonial kingdom in Central Africa.
Wordless Wednesdays for Black History Month Art Lessons
Wordless Wednesday posts on Art Class Curator offer artworks with little to no commentary. The artworks in these posts make for excellent bellringers when paired with an art appreciation worksheet or questions about art.
Teaching Black History Month Art Lessons
Sometimes teachers shy away from teaching about other cultures or difficult historical periods, but doing so robs our students of the opportunity to dialogue about important social issues and connect with art on a deeply personal level. The post below addresses some of these issues and why it is important to teach art from across cultures and time.
In this lesson, students learn how ethnocentric attitudes can shape how we look at art from other cultures, especially when studying non-Western art. Using three examples from the art world, high school or college students examine cultural reactions to art and how xenophobia shapes worldviews through classroom discussions and writing assignments.
More Art Lessons
- 5 Women Artists of Color with Learning Activities
- 10 Intriguing Ancient Artworks from Around the World
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