Celebrate Black History Month with Portraits of Prominent Figures

February is Black History Month. And while acknowledging black contributions should not be relegated to a single month, it’s a good opportunity to celebrate the artists and thinkers who have changed the world for the better—and to reflect on the state of diversity in the arts today.

This year’s Oscars made headlines for its all-white nominees, yet film and TV are not the only industries suffering a lack of diversity. The AIGA (the association for professional design) notes that only 14% of professional designers are minorities. This is an issue that desperately needs to be addressed, as the organization explains:

…race is only part of the picture. Diversity in design means diversity of experience, perspective, and creativity—otherwise known as diversity of thought—and these can be shaped by multiple factors including race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual identity, ability/disability, and location, among others. The diversity problem in design is not only in the numbers, but also in the lack of diverse role models, opportunities, and public awareness—which leads to apathy, insensitivity, and even outright discrimination.

At Visual News we are well aware of the power of visual communication and the importance of diversity of thought. Good work comes from many perspectives, and that’s what we aim to celebrate every day. Yet we know we can all strive for more inclusion in our fields. In honor of Black History Month, we encourage everyone (starting with ourselves) to reflect on the value of diversity of thought, explore a subject outside of your comfort zone, and learn about the work and life of someone who doesn’t look like you.

If you need a little inspiration, enjoy the work of Texas-based artist Adam Hernandez (aka Slim The Phenom). Since 2014, he has celebrated Black History Month by posting a portrait of a prominent black figure each day during the month of February. Enjoy his most recent postings below, and follow his Black History Series to see this year’s contributions.

Marcus Garvey, Journalist

tumblr_o1vjksMqbP1rp6xbno1_1280

Daisy Bates, Civil Rights Activist

tumblr_nkhp5ddET11rp6xbno1_1280

Ivan Van Sertima, Professor

tumblr_nkfmd6Cq7H1rp6xbno1_1280

Asa Grant Hilliard III, Professor

tumblr_nkdp2sFEBT1rp6xbno1_1280

Paul Cuffee, Abolitionist

tumblr_nkdnwcRi431rp6xbno1_1280

Na’im Akbar, Psychologist

tumblr_nkaznq0Fux1rp6xbno1_1280

Henry Highland Garnet, Abolitionist

tumblr_nk8dakU2Xq1rp6xbno1_1280

Anna J. Cooper, Scholar

tumblr_nk75y3yj3f1rp6xbno1_1280

Henry McNeal Turner, Minister

tumblr_nk4st398xa1rp6xbno1_1280

Bryan A. Stevenson, Lawyer/Activist

tumblr_nk4qd3LB5F1rp6xbno1_1280

Tony Allen, Drummer

tumblr_nk1wqdrotZ1rp6xbno1_1280

Mary Lou Williams, Composer

tumblr_nk045as3vu1rp6xbno1_1280

Prince Saunders, Teacher

tumblr_njy742pEvE1rp6xbno1_1280

James Theodore Holly, Bishop

tumblr_njw9duVT2D1rp6xbno1_1280

Ella Baker, Activist

tumblr_njulqagm0V1rp6xbno1_1280

Nannie Helen Burroughs, Activist

tumblr_njsm5zwdwS1rp6xbno1_1280 (1)

Mary McLeod Bethune, Educator

tumblr_njqp1p7PTU1rp6xbno1_1280

Ethel L. Payne, Journalist

tumblr_njp1oriZhH1rp6xbno1_1280

Mavis Staples, Singer

tumblr_njmxhf3H3Z1rp6xbno1_1280

Wole Soyinka, Playright/Poet

tumblr_njl6b6E0Ui1rp6xbno1_1280

Fela Kuti, Musician

tumblr_njj2qysnK31rp6xbno1_1280

James Forten, Abolitionist

tumblr_njhe2r1CV91rp6xbno1_1280

Coretta Scott King, Activist

tumblr_nj3p21WphV1rp6xbno1_1280

Mo Abudu, Talk Show Host

tumblr_nj7tdmkPj71rp6xbno1_1280

Betty Shabazz, Activisttumblr_nj60ypkNcy1rp6xbno1_1280

Queen Nzinga, Angolan Queentumblr_nja37z4lor1rp6xbno1_1280

Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Activist/Educator

tumblr_njb1gf3Zti1rp6xbno1_1280

Kathleen Neal Cleaver, Professor/Activisttumblr_njd0gszF7a1rp6xbno1_1280

Myrlie Evers-Williams, Journalist/Activisttumblr_njf32wrm431rp6xbno1_1280

Like this? Check out our favorite pieces of art inspired by MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. Learn more about the first African-American man to dominate the ad industry. And see why Brazilians put racist comments on billboards to shame online trolls.

For more inspiring content, subscribe to our newsletter

Share this Story