The African-American Experience – Understanding the Civil Rights Movement Through Art

The African-American experience through art - Civil Rights #MLKday #readYourWorld #civilrights
We have been studying the civil rights movement all last week.  Our study was completed by taking a trip to the National History Museum to see the exhibit Through the African-American Lens.  It’s a very small collection from a much larger collection we will see when the National Museum of African-American culture opens later in 2016.

I wanted the kids to understand, not only what life was like during the civil rights movement – but how it  impacted culture immediately afterwards.

One way to do this is through art.  Art often teaches us what textbooks, videos, and movies cannot.  It also reinforces information in a different way, expands our minds, and challenges our perceptions.

I wanted to share with you, some of the pieces we saw at the museum and online.


Online Curriculum

These are some of the pieces which spoke to me.  All of these pieces can be seen at OH FREEDOM!, an exhibit that the Smithsonian Institute had a few years ago.   On the website are lesson plans and tons of information.  I could have planned the entire week around this one website.

 Sanitation Workers

sanitation workers fight for better wages, and better treatment #art #MLKday #civilrights

Ernest Withers


This was taken in April of 1968 when the sanitation workers protested decent wages and safer working environments.  This protest is where Martin Luther King delivered his infamous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis just a day before his assassination.



Emmett Till

The Death of Emitt Till

1956, David Driskell


This one is my favorite.  It speaks to the story of Emmett Till.  Have you heard of him?  Emmett Till was a boy who traveled to Money, Mississippi to see family.  While there, he was kidnapped, beaten and brutally murdered for speaking to a white woman.

When her son was returned to his mother in a pine box, she insisted on an open casket so that all could see what happened to her son.

In this deception of that, you see a son’s body cradled in his mothers arms.

In my opinion, a great telling of a very sad story.


March on Washington

March on Washington #art #hope #dreams

1963 Leonard Freed

To me, this is a picture of hope.  We see a man and a woman, singing and clapping – as we see the badge – The March on  Washington.    Also, this picture implies others are there, as we see the same badge on  nondescript person on the left.

This is where Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivered the most recognized speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – “I have a Dream”.


Protests Against Segregation

Protests against segregation #MLKday #art

1964 Andy Warhol


In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) led a series of demonstrations against segregation.  They were met with dogs, nightstick, and police brutality.  This is one of the images to show this violence of dogs ripping the pants off of a protester.


Then Hope Again – Ali

Ali, a member of the Nation of Islam, a fierce fighter in and out of the ring.  One of the greatest to ever live

1966 Gordon Parks

And what came out of all of this was the best of all time.  Ali.  the infamous prize-fighter.  He was the youngest heavyweight champion, which he earned in 1964 at the age of 22.

A fierce fighter in and out of the ring, he converted to The Nation of Islam under Malcolm X, who he befriended.  Ali was severely treated due to his conversion to the Nation of Islam.


You can read more about all these works of art, and more at the OH FREEDOM page.


Through The African-American Lens

Brown Vs Board of Education

Brown Vs. The board of Education 1954

This is the table and tablecloth where the case was put together.  This case overturned the Plessy Vs. Ferguson decision of 1896 – and put an end to all segregation in southern schools.


Lunch counter sit-in 1960


Lunch Counter Sit-in 1960

Listen to the story of the Lunch counter sit-in where four college boys sat at a “white only” lunch counter in Woolworth.


Do you have any favorite depictions of the Civil Rights Movement?  I would love to hear about them.


About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. Lisa, this is a WONDERFUL post! We don’t have quite so many options here in Denver, sadly, but you’ve motivated to do what I can, especially with Black History Month coming up. Great pics, too! Your daughter is too cute. :)))

  2. This post is awesome. I love the art you chose. I saw the Andy Warhol photo for the first time this year when we visited Cheekwood. I had no idea it existed.
    We’ve read books regarding all of these events. A recent book that was added to our bookshelf is Gordon Parks by Carole Boston Weatherford.
    Latonya recently posted…Five on Friday: Headaches and Snow DaysMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge