Looking Back to Move Forward: History Project

The Big Idea:

How can art reveal missing perspectives in history? How can we research and report on the founding, shifting, and evolving perspectives on race in American history? Why is it important to look back at history in order to move forward?

Activity overview:

For thousands of years, artists have depicted historical scenes and events. The African American artists introduced here—Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon and Romare Bearden—reveal missing perspectives that have not traditionally been presented in art. Study these artists to understand how they re-tell, re-shape, and re-imagine historical narratives. Then research the history of the Founding Fathers and slavery in the United States.

Look closely:

Click on each artist button at right to view detailed screens about the artist and his or her works. Be sure to click on all images, view all videos, read all documents, and use the zoom tool to look closely at the works of art.

In this activity you will:

  1. Look at the art of Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, and Sargent Johnson and identify each artist's perspective on American history
  2. Identify your race, culture, and nationality
  3. Research the Founding Fathers and the history of slavery in the United States
  4. Find a character who helped slaves escape, or worked on Thomas Jefferson's plantation, or led the charge to the civil rights movement. Research their "missing perspective"
  5. Present your research to the class and evaluate your work

You will be graded on:

  1. Clear notes on the four artists
  2. Research notes on the major debates on slavery among the Founding Fathers
  3. A research project on a missing perspective
  4. Presentation and self-evaluation