Compiled by Art of Autism Board member Keri Bowers
“I created this digital piece of Amy Sherald to honor her boldly compelling persona, vision and art. Sherald famously painted Michelle Obama, The Bathers, and Breonna Taylor, among other critical portraits of everyday black identity. I am drawn to her essence and clarity in colors that pop, fine lines and decided view of life that inspires me. To honor Black History Month, it is a photograph of her – the artist – that inspired me to create this piece!” Art of Autism Board member Kimberly Gerry-Tucker
Amy Sherald’s vibrant portraits celebrate the multiplicity of Black identity.
Her paintings often feature solid pastel backgrounds that allow her subjects’ demeanors and intricately detailed outfits to take center stage.
Sherald studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art (2004), and Clark Atlanta University (1997). Her style, “simplified realism”, is drawn from staged photographs she creates of her various subjects. To view Sherald’s works, visit her website AmySherald.com
Did you know?
On February 21, 2016, 106-year Washington, D.C., resident, and school volunteer Virginia McLaurin visited the White House as part of Black History Month. When asked by President Barack Obama why she was there, McLaurin said:
“A Black president. A Black wife. And I’m here to celebrate Black history. That’s what I’m here for.”
African-American Folktales are the storytelling and oral history of enslaved African Americans during the 1700-1900s. Folklore originated from the West African stories brought by enslaved people torn from their homes far across the waters to the Americas. These important generational stories revealed ages of life lessons, spiritual teachings, cultural knowledge, and wisdom of ages in the Black community and influenced the roots of Black Cultural History to this day.
During slavery, the bondage of captivity created newer generations of folk stories to be told that spoke to the pain, sorrows, hardships, and tragedies of slavery. These stories included folk spirits and heroes that were able to outwit and outsmart slaveholders and defeat enemies. These folk stories gave hope to enslaved people that folk spirits would free them from slavery. Many folktales are unique to African-American culture, while others are influenced by African, European, and Native American tales.
A Short History of Black History Month
Originating in the United States, Black History Month is observed each February throughout the month. #BHM is also known as African American History Month. It first received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed in Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora. It is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, while in Ireland, and the United Kingdom observe Black History Month in October.
United States (1970)
Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State a year later, from January 2 to February 28, 1970.
Six years later, Black History Month was celebrated across the country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small by the time President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial.
“Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
Gerald Ford Urging Americans to celebrate the accomplishments of those in the black community
United Kingdom (1987)
In the United Kingdom, Black History Month was first celebrated in October 1987 (which year was also coincidentally the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation, the centenary of the birth of Marcus Garvey and the 25th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity, an institution dedicated to advancing the progress of African states). Black History Month in the UK was organized through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get BHM underway.
In the UK, Black History Month was first celebrated in London in 1987, as part of African Jubilee Year, when on October 1st Dr Maulana Karenga from the US was invited to an event at County Hall to mark the contributions of Black people throughout history. Addai-Sebo drew up a plan to recognize the contributions of African, Asian and Caribbean people to the economic, cultural and political life in the UK, with other boroughs beginning formally to institute October as Black History Month in the UK.
Black History Month UK does not support the use of the term “black” to refer to all people of color in the UK (see: Political blackness), and has criticized institutions for supporting Black History Month with images of people from British Asian backgrounds.
In 1995, Canada’s House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month and honored Black Canadians. In 2008, Senator Donald Oliver moved to have the Senate officially recognize Black History Month, which was unanimously approved.
Republic of Ireland (2010)
Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut notes: “Blacky Month Ireland was initiated in Cork in 2010. This location seems particularly appropriate as, in the 19th century, the city was a leading center of abolition, and the male and female anti-slavery societies welcomed a number of black abolitionists to lecture there, including Charles Lenox Remond and Frederick Douglass.
To learn more about “Negro History Week (1926) visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_History_Month
Check out 120 Inspiring Quotes for Black History Month: ‘Freedom Is Never Given’ (Parade Magazine, January 24, 2022)
#ActuallyAutistic Art of Autism Black History Month posts:
I am Proud to be an Autistic, African-American Artist – Ronaldo Byrd
Lois Curtis Artist and Disability Advocate Paved the Way Art of Autism Board Member Angela Weddle
My Mother Stands Angela Weddle
Learn more about Black Autistic Influencers: