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Black History Month 2024


in collaboration with the Center for Multicultural Affairs

African Americans and the Arts

Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.

The Black History Month 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the key influence African Americans have had in the fields of "visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression." (History)

African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment. Artistic and cultural movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism, have been led by people of African descent and set the standard for popular trends around the world. In 2024, we examine the varied history and life of African American arts and artisans.

For centuries Western intellectuals denied or minimized the contributions of people of African descent to the arts as well as history, even as their artistry in many genres was mimicked and/or stolen. However, we can still see the unbroken chain of Black art production from antiquity to the present, from Egypt across Africa, from Europe to the New World. Prior to the American Revolution, enslaved Africans of the Lowcountry began their more than a 300-year tradition of making sweetgrass baskets, revealing their visual artistry via craft.

The suffering of those in bondage gave birth to the spirituals, the nation’s first contribution to music. Blues musicians such as Robert Johnson, McKinley ‘Muddy Waters’ Morganfield and Riley “BB” B. King created and nurtured a style of music that became the bedrock for gospel, soul, and other still popular (and evolving) forms of music. Black contributions to literature include works by poets like Phillis Wheatley, essays, autobiographies, and novels by writers such as David Walker and Maria Stewart. Black aesthetics have also been manifested through sculptors like Edmonia Lewis and painters like Henry O. Tanner.

In the 1920s and 30s, the rise of the Black Renaissance and New Negro Movement brought the Black Arts to an international stage. Members of the armed forces, such as James Reese Europe, and artists such as Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker and Lois Mailou Jones brought Black culture and Black American aesthetics internationally, and Black culture began its ascent to becoming a dominant cultural movement to the world. In addition to the Harlem Renaissance, today we recognize that cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans also were home to many Black artists.

The 1960s continued this thread through the cultural evolution known as the Black Arts Movement, where artists covered issues such as pride in one’s heritage and established art galleries and museum exhibitions to show their own work, as well as publications such as Black Art. This period brought us artists such as Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez. The movement would not have been as impactful without the influences from the broader Black world, especially the Negritude movement and the writings of Frantz Fanon.

In 1973, in the Bronx, New York Black musicians (i.e. DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock) started a new genre of music called hip-hop, which comprises five foundational elements (DJing, MCing, Graffiti, Break Dancing and Beat Boxing). Hip-hop performers also used technological equipment such as turntables, synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers to make their songs. Since then hip-hop has continued to be a pivotal force in political, social, and cultural spaces and was a medium where issues such as racial violence in the inner city, sexism, economic disinvestment and others took the forefront.

The term Afrofuturism was used approximately 30 years ago in an effort to define cultural and artistic productions (music, literature, visual arts, etc.) that imagine a future for Black people without oppressive systems, and examines how Black history and knowledge intersects with technology and science. Afrofuturist elements can be found in the music of Sun Ra, Rashan Roland Kirk, Janelle Monáe and Jimi Hendrix. Other examples include sci-fi writer Octavia Butler’s novels, Marvel film Black Panther, and artists such as British-Liberian painter Lina Iris Viktor, Kenyan-born sculptor Wangechi Mutu, and Caribbean writers and artists such as Nalo Hopkinson, and Grace Jones.

In celebrating the entire history of African Americans and the arts, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) puts into the national spotlight the richness of the past and present with an eye towards what the rest of the twenty-first century will bring. ASALH dedicates its 98th Annual Black History Theme to African Americans and the arts. (ASALH)

Calendar of Events

EventDate & TimeLocationHost(s)Link (if applicable)
Jerome M. Culp, Jr. Critical Theory LectureThursday, February 1
12:30 PM
Duke Law School, Room 3037Duke University School of Law
First FridayFriday, February 2
1 PM-3 PM
Bottom level of the Flowers BuildingMary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
Blue Devil Market: Black History Month editionWednesday, February 7
Brodie GymDean of Students
Wind Down Wednesday: "Black Maternal Health & Why You Should Care" Zine Making WorkshopWednesday, February 7
6 PM – 8 PM
Bryan University Center Suite 101 Conference RoomWomen's Center, The Flow, and Center for Multicultural Affairs
Black History Month Women's Basketball GameThursday, February 8
starts at 7pm
Cameron Indoor StadiumMary Lou Williams Center for Black Culturelink to register on duke groups:

link to receive tickets:
Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s Black History Month Karaoke NightSaturday, February 10
8 PM-10 PM
Keohane AtriumHoof ‘n’ Horn
Family Day: Black History MonthSunday, February 11
1 PM - 3 PM
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke UniversityNasher Musuem of Art at Duke University
Revisiting the Takeover: A Commemoration of the 55th Anniversary of the Allen Building TakeoverTuesday, February 13 2024
6 PM-7 PM
Holsti-Anderson Family Room, Rubenstein Library 153What’s Our Destiny, Duke University Libraries, DukeArts, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, Duke Centennial
Throwdown Thursday
Audience- Graduate and Professional students
Thursday, February 15 11:30AM-1:30PMBryan University Center suite 109Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
Dignity, Justice, and Joy: Holding On To Our Humanity in Challenging TimesFriday, February 16
2PM-3:30 PM
7PM-8:30 PM
North Carolina Central University and Mt. Level Missionary Baptist ChurchDuke University Chapel
Dinner and Talk with Justine Simone Lindsay: First Out Black Trans NFL CheerleaderTuesday, February 20
CSGD Programming Space, Bryan University Center Suite 100Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity
Black History Month dinner & Breaking BreadWednesday, February 21
East Campus MarketplaceMary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
Combating Anti-Blackness in the Latinx Community with Dr. Javier WallaceWednesday, February 21
CSGD Programming Space, Bryan University Center Suite 100Students of the Caribbean Association (SOCA) x Mi Gente
Sandford School of Public Policy Distinguished Speaker Series with the Mary Lou: Speaker, Isabel WilkersonThursday, February 22
Page AuditoriumSandford School of Public Policy & Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
Afro-Caribbean Night at the NasherThursday, February 22
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke UniversityNasher Museum of Art at Duke University
Black History Month Paint Night (Kickback Friday)Friday, February 23
CSGD Programming Space, Bryan University Center Suite 100Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity
Black Policy Conference - Policy in Living ColorFriday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, February 24;

Feb. 23 4PM-6:15PM (pre registration from 2-4pm) & Feb. 24th from 9AM-6:30PM
Duke Sanford School of Public Policy - Fleishman CommonsPolicy in Living Color & The Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Speaker event : a lived story of African-American women open to benevolenceFriday, February 23
Rubenstein LibraryDuke Black Muslim Coalition
Speed Culture: Rhythmic Samba & Nepali Dance Performances with Spoken Words & StorytellingSaturday, February 24
1PM - 4PM
Penn PavilionGPSG DEI Committee
Screening & Discussion: "Faith in Blackness: An Exploration of Afro-Latine Spirituality"Tuesday, February 27
5 PM-7 PM
Duke Divinity School, 0016 WestbrookHispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School
The Mindset for Success: Creative Career StrategiesWednesday, February 28
6 PM-8 PM
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke UniversityTriangle Duke Black Alumni, the Nasher Museum, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke, Duke Student Affairs, Duke Arts and Duke’s Career Center
Grad/Prof Student Lunch with Dr. Mark Anthony NealThursday, February 29 12PM-1:15PMSmith WarehouseDean of Students - Graduate and Professional Student Services
Black Femme TeaThursday, February 29 2PMJB Duke HotelMary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture

Most of the events listed will be able to be found on DukeGroups! Some of these events may also have a "Black History Month" tag on the platform. For more on Black History Month, check back soon.


Black History Month is a celebration of all aspects of Black culture and the diaspora during the month of February. Originally founded as Negro History Week in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and his organization the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), the second week of February was chosen because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebration was later expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. A theme is chosen every year by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History as a guiding principle for the month's celebrations. The theme for 2024 is African Americans and the Arts. The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture centralizes the efforts of student Black affinity organizations during the month of February for celebrating the history and culture of Black people in America. Throughout the month, discussions will be held addressing relevant issues of the day.

  • Submitted resources
    • Qwest TV EDU- a video streaming channel created by Quincy Jones and showcasing Black music and global sounds. Features a wide range of musical genres and styles, including jazz, the blues, soul, funk, world music, electronic music, classical music, and much more.
    • HistoryMakers Digital Archive View- features oral history video interviews with thousands of historically significant African Americans. Discover Black painters, musicians, actors, dancers, playwrights, filmmakers, sculptors, and others in the arts.
    • The Nasher Museum presents 'María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold,' a monographic exhibition of a visionary voice in photography, immersive installation, painting and performance. The first multimedia survey of the artist’s work since 2007, 'Behold' highlights the artist’s dedication to creating new modes of understanding, as well as her engagement with interconnected historical and present-day challenges. These themes are examined through Campos-Pons’s performance-based practice and centering of Yoruba-derived Santería symbolism, as well as her work with communities in Boston, Cuba, Italy and Nashville (her current residence). The exhibition will be on view, February 15 – June 09, 2024.
  • Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
  • Black Student Affinity Space
  • The Center for Multicultural Affairs & the Identity and Cultural Centers
  • Duke Black Alumni (DBA)
  • 100 Collegiate Black Men/ @duke100bm
  • Black Law Student Association/ @dukelawblsa
  • Black Pre-Law Society/ @dukepbls
  • Black Student Alliance/ @dukebsa
  • Black Women's Union/ @duke_bwu
  • Duke Africa/
  • Duke Ethiopian/Eritrean Student Transnational Association(DESTA)/ @dukedesta
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP)/ @dukenaacp
  • Minority Association of Premedical Students/ @dukemaps
  • Nakisai African Dance Ensemble/ @dukenakisaiade
  • National PanHellenic Council(NPHC)/ @dukenphc
  • National Society of Black Engineers(NSBE)/ @dukensbe
  • Students of the Caribbean Association(SOCA)/ @dukesoca
  • United Black Athletes/ @duke.uba
  • United in Praise/ @duke_unitedinpraise

The organizations listed here aren't the only Black diasporic-identified/affiliated organizations! Find these organizations on Duke Groups or Instagram! Want your organization to be added to this list or need to make an edit? Please email .

  • Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
  • Center for Multicultural Affairs

Plaza Banner Facts

Have you seen the lightpole banners on the Plaza (as of Feb. 1) and want to learn more about the person, group, or event highlighted? Click on each topic below to expand and learn more.

black wall street text with yellow, red, green and blue accents, with cut out photo of black wall street historical signSource: Duke Chronicle article from January 21, 2022

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Durham’s Black Wall Street housed a vibrant and successful variety of Black-owned businesses. A set of four blocks on Parrish Street, Black Wall Street served as a hub for Black Americans and was a thriving commercial area with tailors, barbers, drugstores and more. It put Durham on the map as the capital of the Black middle class in America, and the Bull City became nationally renowned for fostering Black entrepreneurship.

“Durham was known as the ‘mecca of the Black South’ because so much attention was paid to Durham’s economy,” said Paul Scott, founder of the Durham-based Black Messiah Movement and an activist who has worked to raise awareness about Black history in Durham.

Black Wall Street flourished during the Reconstruction era, at a time of racial tension and systematic discrimination against Black Americans.

The success of Black Wall Street was fueled by the efforts of two businesses that remain today: NC Mutual Life Insurance Company and Mechanics & Farmers Bank.

Today, NC Mutual Life Insurance Company is the largest Black-owned insurance business in the world. M&F Bank is the second oldest minority-owned bank in the United States and was also the first Black-owned bank in Durham.

dr. samuel dubois cook text with yellow, red, green and blue accents, with cut out photo of dr. cook with a red shadowDr. Samuel Cook - First Black tenured faculty member joined Duke in 1966 

Cook is Duke’s first black tenured professor, joining the faculty in 1966, three years after the university’s student body desegregated. He is also the first African American to hold a regular faculty appointment at any predominantly white college or university in the South. A graduate of Morehouse College, he was classmates with Martin Luther King, Jr. He later became the president of Dillard University, a historically black university in New Orleans. Now retired, Duke honors his legacy annually with an awards banquet.

black student alliance text with yellow, red, green and blue accents, with cut out photo of the group BSA, Black Student Alliance was established in 1967 and promotes academic achievement and intellectual pursuit, cultivates dynamic leadership, and strives to eliminate social barriers for all.


Learn more about BSA

the allen building takeover text with yellow, red, green and blue accents, with 3 polaroids of the daySource: Duke Libraries

On February 13, 1969, between 50 and 75 Duke University students (many of whom were members of the Afro-American Society) occupied the Allen Building (Duke's main administration building) to bring attention to the needs of African-American students. These needs included an African-American studies department, a black student union, protection from police harassment, and increased enrollment and financial support for black students.

The students remained barricaded in the Allen Building for most of the day, leaving sometime after 5:00 PM after an ultimatum from the Duke administration. Although their exit was peaceful, a large crowd of mostly white students had gathered outside the building during the day, and this crowd and the police became entangled. The police fired tear gas on the students, prompting further campus protests.

In March, after discussions between the Afro-American Society and the administration over the development of the African-American Studies program ended in disagreement, Duke students and their supporters marched in downtown Durham. Dozens of Duke's African-American students threatened to leave campus to attend the Malcolm X Liberation University, a newly-developed school led by community activist Howard Fuller. On March 19, 1969, a University Hearing Committee found the students who had occupied the Allen Building guilty of violating university regulations. All defendants were sentenced to one year of probation.

This powerful demonstration became known as the Allen Building Takeover.

wilhelmina reuben-cooke text with yellow, red, green and blue accents, with a cutout folder of her from when she was a student in front of her namesake buildingWilhelmina Reuben-Cooke becomes the first Black woman to have a campus building named after her on September 24, 2020.