Arts and culture grab the spotlight for our 2024 Black History Month coverage

The AJC centers Black creativity in our 9th-annual monthlong story series
231130 ATLANTA, GA — On screen from left, the AJC’s Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne deliver a prerecorded message to viewers following a screening of their film, the AJC's hip-hop documentary "The South Got Something to Say,” at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. 
Bita Honarvar for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bita Honarvar

Credit: Bita Honarvar

231130 ATLANTA, GA — On screen from left, the AJC’s Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne deliver a prerecorded message to viewers following a screening of their film, the AJC's hip-hop documentary "The South Got Something to Say,” at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. Bita Honarvar for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In 2023, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a thing.

We produced, “The South Got Something to Say,” our first feature-length documentary under the newly-formed AJC Films.

AJC hip-hop documentary filmmakers, (back row, left to right) writer/producer Ernie Suggs, co-director Ryon Horne, Byron Horne, co-director Tyson A. Horne and (front row) supervising producer Sandra Brown and writer/producer DeAsia Paige pose Nov. 2, 2023 outside Center Stage in Atlanta before the premiere of “The South Got Something to Say”.

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

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Credit: Lauren Hubbard

Building on Atlanta and Georgia’s deep Black cultural roots, the film explored the history of hip-hop through the city’s massive influence on the genre. Now, as we enter Black History Month and build on the documentary’s momentum, we are still studying that influence.

We also ask what it is about Georgia that it can produce opera diva Mattiwilda Dobbs nearly a century ago, and rap legend Killer Mike, who is nominated for three Grammy awards today?

Mattiwilda Dobbs

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And in between, we wonder how Georgia’s red clay — mixed with soul and a fair share of trauma — went on to produce the likes of Little Richard, Otis Redding, James Brown and Ray Charles.

All of that is the foundation of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s annual Black History Month Series, launching today. Now in its ninth year, we are focusing on the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Atlanta and Georgia.

As we have done for the previous two years, we take our cues from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which was founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History and Black History Month. Every year since 1928, the organization has marked Black History Week and now Month, with a theme.

Carter G. Woodson was a historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In February 1926 he announced the celebration of "Negro History Week", considered the precursor of Black History Month. His most famous work was "The Mis-Education of the Negro," in 1933.

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In 2022, just out of a pandemic that disproportionally impacted Black Americans, we focused on health and wellness. Last year, amid social uprisings and the ramifications of a changing society, we looked at resistance.

This year, we will focus on “African Americans and the Arts,” and how Black people — through artistic and cultural movements like the New Negro, Black Arts, the Harlem Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism — preserve history, community memory and empowerment.

That means digging deep into what has always made Atlanta a cultural hub. We have always considered ASALH’s themes to be very timely in how they coincide with national and world events.

This year, coming off of our involvement with “The South Got Something to Say,” is no different.

Aside from music, you will see articles this year on the visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression African Americans have influenced.

Specifically, that will include articles on how the slave narrative became the foundation for Black literature; how Clark Atlanta University’s WCLK changed radio in the city; and how the mature set of African Americans party.

We will also have profiles on Blind Willie McTell, Celia Cruz, Edwin Moses, Jericho Brown, Hubbard Pryor, Jerome Meadows and the amazing Millie Jackson.

Blind Willie McTell was one of the greatest Piedmont bluesmen to walk the planet and an influential guitarist, too. The name of the Virginia-Highland club Blind Willie's is a tribute to him. Photo: AP

Credit: Associated Press

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Credit: Associated Press

Our Sunday offerings will look at art museums on Black college campuses, graffiti culture, and Georgia’s musical “Mount Rushmore” of Little Richard, Otis Redding, James Brown and Ray Charles.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg. To both mark our ninth year and give you a taste of what’s coming up, here is a look back at our history, with nine of our favorite stories from the past decade.

Movin’ on Up: How a TV theme song motivates black America.

Genteel game of bridge a quiet act of rebellion for Black players: How Atlanta’s Black bridge players continue a tradition once denied them by Jim Crow laws.

Tolliver McKinney plays a round with his wife/partner Daisy during the The American Bridge Association MLK Memorial Tournament in Atlanta on Friday, January 13, 2023.  (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

‘The water brought us, the water took us away:’ On an 1803 Slave rebellion where enslaved Africans rebelled, chose death over bondage.

Griffin Lotson stands on a bridge overlooking the spot he and others believe captive Africans rebelled and went into the marshy waters of Dunbar Creek rather than be enslaved.
Courtesy Shelia Poole

Credit: Shelia Poole

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Credit: Shelia Poole

How ‘The New Negro’ started a renaissance, and not just in Harlem: The Black cultural movement built and promoted by Alain Locke reached far beyond New York City.

A parade by the Universal Negro Improvement Association works its way through Harlem in 1920, and features a slogan about the "New Negro." In the early 20th century, the Harlem Renassaince embraced and promoted a new wave of advocacy, culture and pride, which some called "The New Negro Movement." (NY Public Library Public Colletions)

Credit: NY Public Library Public Colletions

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Credit: NY Public Library Public Colletions

A King’s wedding: For the Middlebrooks, getting Martin Luther King Jr’s marriage blessing was worth the wait.

(EDNOTE: Wedding photograph provided by Gwen and James Middlebrooks) February 10, 2022 Atlanta - Wedding photograph of Gwen and James Middlebrooks, who were married 61 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on Thursday, February 10, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Story of the Tragic Mulatto: How stereotypical trope drew on self-hatred, depression, alcoholism and sexual perversion.

In the 1934 film “Imitation of Life,” Fredi Washington, right, plays the daughter of Louise Beavers, left, and breaks her mother’s heart by passing as a white woman. (Universal Pictures)

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For many, an Afro isn’t just a hairstyle: How a quarantine Afro helped a reporter explore his Blackness and identity.

Afros were common in the 1970s: Comedian Richard Pryor in 1977; Pam Grier in the 1974 film "Foxy Brown"; Esther Rolle as Florida Evans in "Good Times," which premiered in 1974; and Julius "Dr. J" Erving when he briefly played for the Atlanta Hawks in 1972 (his hair was accented for publication in this photo). (AP file; CBS Television; Chuck Vollersten / AJC file)

Credit: AP file

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Credit: AP file

Zeta Phi Beta: Celebrating 100 years of a Black sisterhood.

Black double-consciousness: How this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others is still strong.

Photo illustration of various editions of W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Souls of Black Folk,” first published in 1903. The book’s first chapter coins the term “double-consciousness,” which DuBois defined as the “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” (Pete Corson / AJC)

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In addition to the traditional stories that we do on African American pioneers, these pieces will run in our Living and A sections, as well as our front page, every day this month. You can also go to ajc.com/news/atlanta-black-history for more subscriber exclusives on the African American people, places and organizations that have changed the world.

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