A Love Supreme: Black Cultural Expression and Political Activism of the 1960s and 1970s

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Bird Library, 6th Floor

January 19 - August 23, 2023

The Black Arts Movement (BAM) of the 1960s and 1970s, coined by scholar of African American theatre, cultural critic and playwright Larry Neal, was the “aesthetic and spiritual sister” of the Black Power Movement. The creators and activists of the Movement understood that political activism and cultural expression were inseparable. They drew in equal parts from the teachings of Black nationalist leaders like el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) and from the improvisational performance of Black free-jazz musicians like John Coltrane. Black identity was reclaimed, recentered and reaffirmed inside writing, theater, music, education, visual art and more. A politic in and of itself, Blackness became a source of pride, power, philosophy and love that Black communities utilized to forge new pathways toward liberation.

A Love Supreme: Black Cultural Expression and Political Activism of the 1960s and 1970s, the new exhibition at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) reimagines the Black Power and the Black Arts Movements. This exhibition intentionally unmutes a multitude of Black writers, leaders and artists from SCRC’s manuscript and archival collections as well as the rare book and printed materials collection. Curated as a snapshot into the Black Arts and Black Power Movements, materials within this exhibition expand dominant narratives of Black pride, love, strength, philosophy and power. On display are chapbooks from prominent Black publishing houses, such as Broadside Press and Third World Press, as well as a diverse selection of journals and periodicals from various creators from the period. Also featured are works produced by both well and little-known Black visual artists such as Emory Douglas, Masood Ali-Wilbert Warren, Carole Byard and the young students of Black nationalist educators. This exhibition and its call to A Love Supreme, the title of John Coltrane’s 1964 groundbreaking album, amplifies the intimacy of Black community, their visions of liberation and their expressions of supreme, everyday love.

This exhibition is co-curated by Caroline Charles, SCRC Curatorial Assistant and PhD candidate in English, and Jessica Terry-Elliott, SCRC Curatorial Assistant and PhD candidate in History, in collaboration with SCRC staff. Portions of the physical exhibition have been sponsored by the Syracuse University Library Associates.

A video tour of "A Love Supreme" exhibition.