Everett LeRoi Jones


Spanning the years between 1960 and 1975, the initial period of the Black Arts Movement is variously associated with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, and the subsequent rise of the Nation of Islam. Although the origin of the Black Arts Movement still generates debate among scholars, there is no doubt that it signaled the rise of a new cultural aesthetic marked by an extraordinary burst of creative energy in the literary, performing, and visual arts. Significantly, the Black Arts Movement opened the floodgates for a diversity of American voices, while offering an impressive model for the expression of minority points of view.

Because no exhibit on the Black Arts Movement would be complete without mention of one of its founding fathers, Amiri Baraka, we take this opportunity to draw attention to the printed resources that have been gathered to enhance the manuscript collection acquired by the library in the mid-1960s related to the Beat periodical Yugen, which Baraka edited from 1958 to 1962. More recently, we acquired a cache of material pertaining to Baraka’s arrest in 1967 in Newark, New Jersey, his defense by the writing community, and the subsequent dismissal of the charges against him.

Composed of artistic, cultural, political, and social dimensions, the Black Arts Movement was propelled by the simultaneous emergence of a number of small presses that promoted the work of black artists, dramatists, and poets. The exhibit focuses on two African American presses, the Broadside Press and the Third World Press, as well as a series of poetry pamphlets issued in London by the publisher Paul Breman. Together, these small independent presses brought to wider attention the work of Gwendolyn Brooks, Ed Bullins, Ben Caldwell, Sam Cornish, Ray Durem, Nikki Giovanni, David Henderson, Ted Jones, Etheridge Knight, Haki R. Madhubuti, Larry Neal, Sonia Sanchez, Lorenzo Thomas, Askia Touré, Marvin X, Al Young, and many others. The Black Power aesthetic of much of this literature is often reinforced by the cover art for these productions. This artwork documents the emergence of a distinctive, yet tremendously varied, graphic style.

Expanding upon the visual aspects of the Black Arts Movement, we have also chosen to feature some examples of the work of Oliver W. Harrington, a cartoonist and social satirist, and Jacob Lawrence, a chronicler of the black experience in paint. Also included are an assortment of literary periodicals from the Black Arts Movement, including Black Theatre, Hoo-Doo, the Journal of Black Poetry, Nkombo, Phase, and Soulbook. Many scholars agree that 1975 marks the end of the Black Arts Movement with the publication of the final issue of Kitabu Cha Jua (formerly the Journal of Black Poetry). This exhibit is not intended as a de- finitive exploration of the Black Arts Movement. Rather, it is an invitation to examine the resources that the Special Collections Research Center has gathered in the hope that they will inspire scholarly inquiry, or at least conversation, about this important era in American cultural history. In his 1994 essay on the Black Arts Movement, Amiri Baraka defined the continuing task of Black artists and intellectuals as the obligation to “create those organizations and institutions that will finally educate, employ, entertain and liberate us.”


Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Library
Syracuse, NY 13244
Last modified: June 09, 2012 12:35 PM
URL: http://libwww.syr.edu /digital/exhibits/b/BlackArts/index2.htm