Smithsonian links Civil Rights movement, American art on new Web site

February 21, 2012

Admirers of Romare Bearden might had forgotten — and I certainly had — that the great artist first created his collage “Roots” as a cover for TV Guide.


Smithsonian Web site “Oh Freedom’’ includes “School’s Out” by Allan Rohan Crite. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“Oh Freedom! Teaching African American Civil Rights through American Art at the Smithsonian” is a project aimed at teachers of middle and high school students. But anybody can tap into it to learn or refresh.

The title is taken from a powerful song sung during the Civil Rights era, and the version above is by Joan Baez.

The site features more than three dozen artworks, from photographers James VanDerZee, Gordon Parks, Roland Freeman and Robert McNeill to painters Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, Andy Warhol, Sam Gilliam and Shepard Fairey.

The lesson plans are not only for classroom work, but can start a conversation anywhere. Bearden created “Roots” as a TV Guide cover to promote the miniseries based on Alex Haley’s best-seller “Roots.”

The Web site is africanamericanart.si.edu.

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