Black History, Black Joy

By NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD
Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson

Photo by Aaron Jay Young


As we celebrate Black History Month 2024, I am mindful of the multitude of stories by Black creators that are part of the American cultural landscape, in literature, dance, visual arts, and across the range of arts disciplines. Like the historical record, these stories often reflect the long struggle of Black Americans for equity and for justice. As we acknowledge the importance of our trials and tribulations, we must also lift up the importance of Black joy, which is innate, and the triumph that struggle has made possible. Myriad stories of triumph and joy are expressed through the work of Black artists including visual art by Derrick Adams, Kehinde Wiley, and Faith Ringgold, music by Stevie Wonder, Jon Batiste and Mavis Staples, dance by Misty Copeland, poetry by Amanda Gorman, Questlove’s acclaimed documentary film Summer of Soul about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, and so many more. These expressions are vital and necessary—they too, are evidence of our genius and indomitable humanity.

Here’s to Black joy and triumph during Black history month and always!