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Learn about The Souls of Black Art an Introduction to the
Legacy of African American Art by Kamau Austin

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"One ever feels this twoness, an American a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

W.E.B. Du Bois, the Souls of Black Folk

The story of the legacy of Black Art or African American Art, a topic of which we could never do full exploration on this web site, is as much a story of individual black artists striving for fame and acceptance, as it is the study of Black art's collective social significance. Black art and its more U.S. located relative African American art - is a symbol and product of both self and community expression. African American or black self and community expression, have not always been well received, appreciated, or accepted by the dominant Euro-American cultural institutions. This of course states the obvious. In this regard, black artists have had two major roads to self and community expression.

The first option has been to master Euro-American art movements in order to receive some measure of fame and acclaim within them. The second option has been to explore the richness of the Black - African - and African American Culture and art traditions in order to bring these cultural influences forth in their artistic work.

There of course have been, and presently are, countless African American Artists creating outstanding Black art. It is however, impossible to cover them all. Nevertheless, we will seek to give you a thumbnail sketch of seminal Black artists and the evolution of the African American Art movement. We will briefly profile Black artists who have advanced both the self and community expression through their African American Art. While some feel Black art truly came of age in the Harlem Renaissance, especially in relation to expressing our intrinsic cultural gifts, we will start our exploration of African American Art from its outgrowth in times of slavery.

Some African American art is inseparable from its African Art ancestors (like southern patchwork quilts and their inspiration from Kente cloth and other African Arts and folklore. Other forms of Black art like jazz and Black literature, have received respect and support even beyond the Black community. On the other hand, the irony is that Black painters and sculptors have not enjoyed the same success. We should note and posit the paradox that African American art , while much of it is inspired by African Art and Black culture, has been created in the vortex of the American social context. This is why various forms of African American art have become some of America's few native - unique and original created arts.

When we embark upon this review of the legacy of African American Art, lets be constantly mindful that while the luminaries of Black musical art, entertainment and the dramatic arts, and the Black literary art tradition have received icon or household name status, the opposite has been true of Black painters and sculptors. Many top Black artists, in the fine visual arts, have received very little notoriety. It is for this reason that we would like to reverse this state of affairs by writing the Souls of Black Art.

Our plan is to help make you more knowledgeable on the major figures of the Black art or African American art traditions. This exploration on the legacy of Black art is just a multi-part primer on our African American art heritage and history. We hope that you are inspired to seek out other sources and resources to further your knowledge of the subject. For when we celebrate and understand the best of our Black art legacy, we understand and inspire the best in ourselves both personally and collectively.

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