Protesting Through Art Using the Examples of the Harlem Renaissance and the Chicano Mural Movement

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One culture factor that influences social changes is communication through music and art. The Civil Rights Movement in United States was infused with religion and lead by a social group of people to share the interests of equality. The Civil Rights Movement began between the Harlem Renaissance era (1910- 1929) to the Chicano Mural Movement (1951-1964). Both eras created murals and sculptures as a representation of civil rights. For example, the civil rights movement was created due to discrimination and harsh commitment. African Americans gained freedom for being slaves and Mexican Americans were searching for equality and justice. Each era had an amazing unique way of sharing their experience with civil rights; both cultures created art as a representation of freedom, civil rights, and inequality. Writing poetry, expressing through music, and creating vivid paintings is actual evidence of the civil rights movement.

Harlem Renaissance was the most influential eras of American History. Harlem Renaissance was the center of African American culture and political growth. During this era, Harlem renaissance made a better life for future African Americans with the blend of political delivery, civil rights activism, and musical excitement. Harlem located in New York City, was called “The Capital of Black America', talent came to many musicians, artists, and poets. Although many talented poets like Langston Hughes, wrote about their experience with racial discrimination; White Americans did not listen to his words that spoke from personal experiences. Kaluma Salaam, a black activist during the Black Power association said “Blacks gave the example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that' (Salaam). Talented artists showed their way of freedom through murals and sculptures. It gave others a feeling of freedom with paintings that resemble personal meaning. African Americans, artists were activists and philosophers, fighting with justice and building a better place with their community. In the article ‘Recovering the Rumble: African American Assemblage Art in Los Angeles’ Paul Von Blum says “Since the mid-1960s, African American artists in Los Angeles have been unusually imaginative in developing artistic products enabling them to achieve widespread critical recognition and respect” (Paul Von Blum, 248). Martin Luther King Jr. was a widespread recognition; he came forth to bring freedom in African American culture. He was an honorable man that wanted to see change. His speeches brought out the best in African Americans and gave them hope for their civil rights. He had tried many years to bring peace to his community, and those who stood beside him, to which he earns that respect and began to see the transformation in this protest. It was a true social change that transforms slowly throughout decades. The African Americans and Mexican Americans culture translated their freedom by protesting peacefully; Mexican Americans civil rights movement began during 1951.

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Mexican American Civil rights movement also known as the “Chicano Mural Movement” was mainly based on the demands of equal distribution. During the civil rights movement, Hispanic Americans struggled to gain equal rights throughout their struggle; they have earned an equal treatment through society. By 1960, Hispanics lost their social, political, and economic power. The Chicano movement or also known as “ El Movimiento” began due to the unfairness of human and property rights. Non-violent protests began due to the unequal pay in which Cesar Chavez came forth to show these demands and support his community by convincing the government to pass laws for farmer workers to organize their own trading unions. Daniel De Siga, an artist, created an oil painting on a canvas called “Campesino”, it’s a man who is a farmer and he is doing hard labored work. Sarah McEvoy, a major in Hispanic studies and studio art, says “The effectiveness of a mural in promoting social change depends on how well the process of making it harmonizes with its social context” (McEvoy 3). The representation of the painting can have many meanings, in the painting it looks as if a man is working hard to provide for his family, along with other farm workers who have been protesting for their justice and equality. This painting is a symbolizes the activism for the farm workers rights. Artists give an example of lifestyle in a painting as a representation for peace. Another protest within the Hispanic culture was school walkouts. School walkouts began due to the unequal treatment happening throughout school districts. School boarders respected the decision of the students in which allowed the students’ demands for equal treatment. These school walkouts empowered the Hispanic community and gave more justice towards their culture. Hispanic culture has shown many reasons to give up but as a community it gave Hispanics the power to stand up and protest for their rights, through these actions many portraits were designed on walls to show the injustice of equal rights.

Between each era both cultures encountered inequalities, art was a big inspiration throughout the Harlem Renaissance and the Chicano Mural Movement. Paintings, portraits, and sculptures are a way of communication, and it captures important moments. Inequality was defined in paintings, justice was shown in portraits, and peace was designed in sculptures. For many years, both cultures have been in situations of inequality because of their race. Artists began to show that context through paintings to indicate the truth with their culture. In an article rewritten by Melvin Delgado, “Murals in Latino Communities: Social Indicators of Community Strengths”. Diego Rivera, a famous Hispanic painter and activist, says “mural painting must help in [a person's] struggle to become a human being, and for that purpose it must live wherever it can; no place is bad for it, so long as it is there permitted to fulfill its primary functions of nutrition and enlightenment' (Rivera & Wolfe, 1934, p. 13). Personal experiences gives an understanding explanation of the paintings between the artists and mural. Murals can indicate inequality due to racial profiling and racial discrimination; murals are located in large communities as a representation of their culture ethnicity. Also, Artists who choose the streets as their gallery often do it from a preference to communicate directly to the public. An article ‘Latino Art and Murals Around the City’ written by Los Estudiantes de Baldwin Wallace University says “The walls of the streets became canvases for artists painting things of cultural importance to the Latino community” (Bladen Wallace University). Public street art is a political and social voice that contains opinions of a community, and spread awareness. From Harlem to the Mexican American civil rights, Art was a political way of communication to show the injustice of both of these cultures.

Freedom, civil rights, and inequality are main sources that identify any culture. As for African Americans and Hispanics that was more exclusive towards their race. Harlem Renaissance was a popular era in the 1920s due to the excitement of music, art, and poetry. It was a symbolism of freedom towards African Americans that have moved from different countries and came to New York City. Art, music, and poetry spoke about the freedom they need or wanted. Years later, Martin Luther King Jr was an activist who spoke from his experience of racial discrimination, he believed in change within his culture and he believed that it was needed for change. Within that same timeline, Mexican Americans had suffered the same treatment with their civil rights, Cesar Chavez, an activist and public speaker, went on strike with his Latino community to show others the real meaning of human and property rights. It was a success through the whole process, then another protest began which was unequal treatment with Hispanic students, during this time frame art became popular due to the protest of civil rights and equal treatment. Art began to show meaning through painting because it captures the important events through the years. Artists speak out through paints as a sign of inequality, justice, and peace. Art is honestly an unique way of expressing political views and spreading awareness. Art comes from the personal experience that the artist has or is currently facing. So the sign of civil rights or speaking political shows through artwork. Murals are displayed in public areas that way many viewers can see the truth behind the portrait.

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Protesting Through Art Using the Examples of the Harlem Renaissance and the Chicano Mural Movement. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
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