Black Arts Movement

The black arts movement (BAM) was an intense, vocal, provocative, and serious intellectual movement devoted to exploring all and every aspect of African life—without reference to the culture imposed by Europe. Often referred to as the artistic sister of the black power movement, the black arts movement is highly regarded among African American intellectuals. The movement changed the function and meaning of literature, as well as the place of culture in mainstream America, by insisting on the right of the artists to redefine the roles and characterizations given them by white Americans.
BAM sought to challenge some of the long-standing assumptions of literary critics and historians. Thus, its writers wanted to interrogate the role of the text, art and temporality, the responsibility of artists to their communities, and oral forms. BAM was essentially critical, but it did produce some outstanding art, such as the work by Charles Fuller, Haki Madhubuti, Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), Ed Bullins, Nikki Giovanni, Harold Cruse, Adrienne Kennedy, and Larry Neal.
There were a number of central points made by the BAM artists. They were concerned about black identity, ethnicity, dignity, timeliness, aesthetic, cultural nationalism, and self-determination. Some of the main philosophical writers included Larry Neal, Amiri Baraka, Maulana Karenga, and Charles Fuller—all of whom wrote detailed discussions of their approaches to artistic contribution. BAM was a dominant paradigm while it lasted, and it has shaped the way we respond to art.



Further Reading

  • Baker, Houston A. (1984). Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bakers book is one of the best works on the blues; it is crisply written and speaks volumes about the need to understand it.
  • Bambara, Toni Cade. (1970). Black Woman: An Anthology. New York: New American Library. This book remains a valuable anthology.
  • Cruse, Harold. (1967). The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. New York: William Morrow. This monumental work chronicles the lives of blacks who experience the double struggle of trying to please whites and their social being.
  • Gayle, Addison. (1971). The Black Aesthetic. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. This book is beautifully written and argued by a person who was one of the key figures in the BAM.
  • This is an important Web site on the movement managed by Molefi K. Asante, Jr., and edited by Amiri Baraka and Ed Bullins.</LBody>