Abstract 7, Volume 9, Number 1, Spring 2014

Using Norman Rockwell Paintings as a Window to the Black Experience


Amy J. Samuels

Gregory L. Samuels

University of South Florida

This article explores engaging student learning concerning the Black Experience during the Civil Rights Era through the analysis of Norman Rockwell paintings.  Focusing on pedagogy and content, the article highlights an instructional framework to encourage an inclusive view of American History while appealing to a variety of learners.  After emphasizing the importance of providing a balanced, representative view of American history that weaves the experiences of marginalized groups throughout the historical fabric, we highlight the highlight the instructional benefits of facilitating arts-based learning in the classroom.  While a variety of artists’ work could be selected to portray historical events of this time period, we address the symbolic reasoning behind the selection of Rockwell, as well as the realistic depictions in his paintings that directly relate to historical events.  The article concludes with a sample lesson that provides two options for instructional delivery:  (1) a technology-focused WebQuest and (2) a visual analysis.  The strategies integrate issues of equity and diversity and encourage students to act as critical agents by examining issues of social justice.  In addition, both strategies foster reading skills, cultural literacy, and critical thinking.

Key Words:  African American History, American History, Arts Integration, Civil Rights Movement, Norman Rockwell, Social Justice, WebQuest

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