Amiri Baraka, poet, playwright, and political activist, passed away January 9, 2014, at the age of 79. As one of the most significant black literary voices of his time, Baraka helped shape the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His book Blues People: Negro Music in White America is highly remembered as a classic chronicle on the role of jazz and the blues in American culture. Komozi Woodard, author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics, spoke about Amiri Baraka’s legacy on Democracy Now.
(You can also view the video, download the podcast, or read the full transcript at Democracy Now’s website.)
The Black Arts Movement began in the 1960s as the artistic counterpoint to the Black Power Movement. The Black Arts Movement helped push African American literature into the forefront of American literature, opening up opportunities for other writers of color who were previously not included in the literary canon. In addition to A Nation within a Nation, we have some other great resources for you if you’d like to learn more about the Black Arts Movement:
The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s by James Edward Smethurst
In this comprehensive analysis, Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.
America Is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s by Lee Bernstein
An eye-opening account of the “prison art renaissance” and its effect on African American literature including the Black Arts Movement.