Dr. Helen Langa presented a paper in October at a symposium in Chicago titled “Framing Justice. Modernism and Social Advocacy in American Visual Arts and Dance, 1929-1945.” The Symposium was held at Loyola University in Chicago.
There were three panels with pairs of presenters that responded to issues of racial oppression, gender oppression, and economic oppression. Dr. Langa’s talk was in the session on racial oppression; it was titled “Respect and Resistance: The NAACP, the CPUSA, and Modernist Artists’ Contributions to the Struggle for ‘Negro’ Rights, 1929 to 1945”.
She focused on the roles that two organizations, the NAACP and the CPUSA, played in influencing visual artists to take up themes that resisted white racism, promoted black equality, and affirmed a positivist vision of black individuals and their contributions to American history. She argued that artists used a diverse array of realist and modernist styles to portray contemporary individuals and issues. While the NAACP emphasized works that promoted respect for African Americans, both white and some black artists drew on Communist ideals to create works that explored contemporary resistance to racism and support for racially-integrated solutions in political and workplace organizing.