Although social justice art is not a topic exclusive to the 20th and 21st centuries, the distribution of information regarding controversial art with gender, race, sexual, and/or environmental themes has increased with the proliferation of media. Choose an example of a social justice work of art from the 20th or 21st centuries from any discipline of the humanities (music, literature, sculpture, film, television, etc.). Then, address the following:

Identify the work and the medium.
Based on your example, to what extent does this work of art make a social contribution?
What aesthetic value does the work have? How does it reflect the human condition? How does it relate to your life?
Has this work ever been censored? If so, explain the circumstances.
Are governments ever justified in censoring art? Why or why not?
Examine some of the influences of this work of art. What was the public reaction to this work? Does it effectively portray its message?
Argue whether or not this work should be considered art. Explain why using terms learned in this course.
Include an accompanying statement from the artist(s) and a statement from a critic to support your points.





Essay: The Impact of Social Justice Art on Society


Social justice art has long served as a powerful medium for raising awareness, sparking conversations, and advocating for change. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the proliferation of media has enabled artists to disseminate their messages on gender, race, sexual orientation, and environmental issues to a wider audience. One exemplary work that embodies the spirit of social justice art is the film “Selma” directed by Ava DuVernay.

Work and Medium

“Selma” is a historical drama film released in 2014 that chronicles the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. The medium of film allows for a visually compelling and emotionally resonant portrayal of the struggles faced by African Americans fighting for voting rights amidst systemic racism and violence.

Social Contribution

“Selma” makes a significant social contribution by shedding light on the historic struggle for civil rights and the ongoing fight against racial injustice. The film serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by activists and the importance of collective action in advocating for equality and justice.

Aesthetic Value and Human Condition

The aesthetic value of “Selma” lies in its powerful storytelling, evocative cinematography, and compelling performances. The film captures the resilience, courage, and determination of individuals fighting against oppression, reflecting the complexities of the human condition and the enduring spirit of resistance. Personally, “Selma” serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for social justice and inspires introspection on my role in advocating for change.


“Selma” has not been widely censored; however, it did face criticism and controversy upon its release for its portrayal of historical events. Some viewers argued that certain scenes were embellished or misrepresented, prompting debates about artistic license versus historical accuracy.

Government Censorship

Governments should not be justified in censoring art, as censorship infringes upon freedom of expression and limits public discourse. Artistic works, even those that challenge societal norms or government policies, play a crucial role in fostering dialogue, promoting empathy, and encouraging critical thinking.

Public Reaction

The public reaction to “Selma” was overwhelmingly positive, with many praising its powerful storytelling, nuanced characters, and emotional impact. The film effectively portrays the struggles faced by civil rights activists and conveys a message of hope, unity, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Consideration as Art

“Selma” unquestionably qualifies as art due to its artistic merit, thematic depth, and ability to provoke emotional and intellectual responses from audiences. Drawing upon elements of historical drama and social commentary, the film transcends mere entertainment to offer a profound reflection on humanity’s capacity for both oppression and liberation.

Artist Statement

Ava DuVernay, director of “Selma,” stated: “I wanted to bring to life the untold stories of courage, sacrifice, and resilience that defined the civil rights movement. Through ‘Selma,’ we aimed to honor the legacy of those who fought for justice and inspire future generations to continue the struggle for equality.”

Critic Statement

Film critic Roger Ebert praised “Selma,” stating: “Ava DuVernay’s direction imbues ‘Selma’ with a sense of urgency and emotional depth that resonates long after the credits roll. The film stands as a testament to the power of storytelling to provoke social change and challenge injustice.”

In conclusion, “Selma” exemplifies the transformative potential of social justice art in illuminating past struggles, confronting contemporary issues, and inspiring collective action. Through its artistic vision, thematic resonance, and societal impact, “Selma” stands as a testament to the enduring power of art to provoke thought, evoke empathy, and catalyze change in the world.

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