February Reading Project

Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present, by Nell Irvin Painter,

I read books to find relevant knowledge and absorb it. For Black History Month I am reading textbook on black history.

This textbook – Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present, by Nell Irvin Painter, is not part of the class syllabus but I think parts amplifies what we are covering in Civil Rights class.

The textbook views the Black experience in North American through the lens of art and culture. The book included African American art to illustrate the book. Each piece reflected on a historical event, important person, or feeling created by an African American artist to show black Americans as creators of their own history.


The textbook has 2 central themes – material conditions and meaning.

Material conditions relates to politics, economics, and demographics.

Meaning relates to the changing production of historical narrative in two ways: first, knowledge as a process, and, second, historical commemoration.

historical commemoration = holidays, monuments, museums

Black Americans – numerous, diverse, creative, personal history richly varied

Historical narrative: constructs a coherent story of the past that makes sense to us now by endowing certain people and events with importance while denying importance to others

Historical narratives changes over time based on the historian’s motive. The writing of history continues to evolve.

Before the civil rights revolution of the 1960’s Black americans were not seen by whites as american so history was the story of white america.

Visual artist view the past in personal, subjective terms

Black artists struggle with racism in the art world. Art school would not admit them. Galleries would not represent them. Museums do not see value in their work. Art history includes racial and gender discrimination

Until the 1920s Harlem Renaissance the art world did not consider black people as appropriate subject for fine art

Black artists depicting lynching = “this is meaningful; we need to pay attention to this.”

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