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


Daisy Bates, Civil Rights Activist


Ivan Van Sertima, Professor


Asa Grant Hilliard III, Professor


Paul Cuffee, Abolitionist


Na’im Akbar, Psychologist


Henry Highland Garnet, Abolitionist


Anna J. Cooper, Scholar


Henry McNeal Turner, Minister


Bryan A. Stevenson, Lawyer/Activist


Tony Allen, Drummer


Mary Lou Williams, Composer


Prince Saunders, Teacher


James Theodore Holly, Bishop


Ella Baker, Activist


Nannie Helen Burroughs, Activist

tumblr_njsm5zwdwS1rp6xbno1_1280 (1)

Mary McLeod Bethune, Educator


Ethel L. Payne, Journalist


Mavis Staples, Singer


Wole Soyinka, Playright/Poet


Fela Kuti, Musician


James Forten, Abolitionist


Coretta Scott King, Activist


Mo Abudu, Talk Show Host


Betty Shabazz, Activisttumblr_nj60ypkNcy1rp6xbno1_1280

Queen Nzinga, Angolan Queentumblr_nja37z4lor1rp6xbno1_1280

Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Activist/Educator


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.

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