NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers' Statement on Black History Month

Woman in African garb dancing in front of musical band
2019 National Heritage Fellow Balla Kouyate (center) and his group perform at the tribute concert in Washington, DC. Photo by Tom Pich

The National Endowment for the Arts joins President Biden and Vice President Harris in recognizing Black History Month. The contributions of Black artists to our nation’s creative and cultural wealth are unparalleled and help to define our country’s artistic legacy. 

The Arts Endowment is committed to advancing the work of Black artists and institutions amongst other groups that make up our diverse creative culture. We do this through our funding programs by supporting, for example, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and North Carolina Black Repertory Company; exhibitions of visual artists including Gordon Parks and Nick Cave; and writers such as Ernest Gaines in 1968 and Tayari Jones in 2012. 

The Arts Endowment’s NEA Jazz Master Fellowships have celebrated great musicians from Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald to Henry Threadgill and Terri Lyne Carrington while the National Heritage Fellowships have honored artists soul singer and songwriter William Bell and Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway, quilters of Gee’s Bend (Alabama). 

Recognizing that Black imaginations and talents have contributed to making American art like none other in the world, the Arts Endowment has highlighted artists through our story platforms like our podcast featuring playwright Michael R. Jackson and poet, novelist Elizabeth Acevedo, while the musical Hamilton’s original Angelica Schuyler Renée Elise Goldsberry was among those on the agency’s blog. And included in the Arts Endowment’s initiatives is an outreach program to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

This February and throughout the year, the agency will celebrate the achievements of Black artists and arts leaders in communities across the country. 

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About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more. 


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