Visionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement

Visionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement

Carmen L. Phelps
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    Visionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement
    Book Description:

    A disproportionate number of male writers, including such figures as Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Maulana Karenga, and Haki Madhubuti, continue to be credited for constructing the iconic and ideological foundations for what would be perpetuated as the Black Art Movement. Though there has arisen an increasing amount of scholarship that recognizes leading women artists, activists, and leaders of this period, these new perspectives have yet to recognize adequately the ways women aspired to far more than a mere dismantling of male-oriented ideals.

    InVisionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement, Carmen L. Phelps examines the work of several women artists working in Chicago, a key focal point for the energy and production of the movement. Angela Jackson, Johari Amiri, and Carolyn Rodgers reflect in their writing specific cultural, local, and regional insights, and demonstrate the capaciousness of Black Art rather than its constraints. Expanding from these three writers, Phelps analyzes the breadth of women's writing in BAM. In doing so, Phelps argues that these and other women attained advantageous and unique positions to represent the potential of the BAM aesthetic, even if their experiences and artistic perspectives were informed by both social conventions and constraints. In this book, Phelps's examination brings forward a powerful and crucial contribution to the aesthetics and history of a movement that still inspires.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-917-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-2)
  3. Introduction The Black Arts Movement: Let Me Count the Ways
    (pp. 3-22)

    The Black Arts Movement (BAM) of the late 1960s to mid-1970s remains an elusive and complex configuration of ideologies mutually and often paradoxically reinforced through the artistic, activist, and intellectual collaborations and exchanges between the movement’s key participants and their critics. Indeed, the concept of collaboration came to signify an ideal within as much as a threat to the Black Arts Movement and Black Power Movement, as well as many other activist initiatives across the country at this time. Although there is much debate amongst scholars about when the Black Arts Movement actually began and ended, or whether or not...

  4. Chapter One Dysfunctional Functionality: Collaboration at Its Best in the Black Arts Era
    (pp. 23-55)

    It is important to consider how the agenda of the Black Arts Movement was shaped by and paradoxically instituted through a collaboration of competing and discordant voices. Whether artists, activists, and intellectuals defined themselves as “Black Artists” during this era or not, many of them favored a socially progressive agenda for pursuing cultural empowerment for black communities. “Historically within the United States, black resistance to domination has been pacifist, militarist, or a creative combination of the two” (James 143). Consequently, this crosscurrent of perspectives proved to be integral to the fomentation of BAM ideals. As those who opposed various aspects...

  5. Chapter Two Women Writing Kinship in Chicago’s Black Arts Movement
    (pp. 56-75)

    For artists, activists, and intellectuals of the Black Arts Movement, the collective goal of asserting a new and clearly defined relationship between politics and art in a way that distinguished the movement from that which had been defined by artists of the Harlem Renaissance era in particular cannot be overstated. “The antibourgeois stance of the Black Arts Movement and its dismissal of the Harlem Renaissance as a failure was not merely an expression of generational revolt: it was also a carefully considered political position” (Thomas 311). However, the collaborative, group-oriented aspect of Black Arts goals oftentimes distracts scholars from determining...

  6. Chapter Three Mirrors of Deception: Invisible, Untouchable, Beautiful Blackness in Johari Amini’s Black Art
    (pp. 76-94)

    In Johari Amini’s “Evolution,” the narrator expresses that mother Africa, as a geographical, historical, and cultural ideal, expands to “black”—a “humaneness movement breathing filling / vasculating knowledge creating soul.” Such an idea is appropriated throughout Amini’s earliest work, published while she served as a member of the Black Arts Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC). Dedicated to “all black people,” her first published collection of poetry,Images in Black(1967), is a critique of images, iconography, and visual references that commonly served as aesthetic conventions defining black culture and identity for the purpose of projecting preeminent community and nation-building goals...

  7. Chapter Four Muddying Clear Waters: Carolyn Rodgers’s Black Art
    (pp. 95-115)

    Women writers of the BAM were often susceptible to gendered critiques, and writers like Chicago poet Carolyn Rodgers received their fair share of these, particularly from their male peers. The relationship between gender and artistic production and/or performance was reinforced through such critiques, which subsequently impacted the BAM’s objectives and continues to influence the ways in which readers and scholars perceive the legacy of the movement today. “As they articulated black manhood through the pen, the gun, the penis, and the microphone, male poets in the Black Arts Movement defined and reified revolutionary black male identity” (Pollard 173). Chicago Black...

  8. Chapter Five Building a Home, Building a Nation: Family in the City and Beyond in Angela Jackson’s Black Art
    (pp. 116-145)

    If much of the work of Black Artists of the late sixties and early seventies conveyed their collective aspirations to pursue methods of achieving social, political, and cultural empowerment for black communities of the African Diaspora, then Angela Jackson’s “a beginning for new beginnings,” published in her first collection of poetry,VooDoo/Love Magic(1975), suggests that black communities were still “wading. waiting” for such aspirations to be realized. As the narrator of this poem expresses, “the Fight is in the living thru.” Like her OBAC predecessors Johari Amini and Carolyn Rodgers, Jackson demonstrates in her work an unyielding commitment to...

  9. Chapter Six Mixing Metaphors: Spirituality, Environmentalism, and Dystopia in Carolyn Rodgers’s and Angela Jackson’s Postrace Black Art
    (pp. 146-161)

    Although the legacy of the BAM is often critiqued within the context of the activist practices and art produced by its participants at the height of the movement, it can also be evaluated in later work, since many Black Artists remained prolific beyond the BAM. In many aspects, self-defined Black Artists continue to reprise BAM ideals in more recent work, which further substantiates the idea that the Black Arts aesthetic was and remains an evolving concept. Artists, activists, and intellectuals who worked toward the realization of the BAM and who were most immediately inspired by and committed to its agenda...

  10. Conclusion You Remind Me . . . “Post–BAM/Soul” Reflections
    (pp. 162-164)

    Not only can the legacy of the Black Arts Movement be critiqued through an examination of the vast pantheon of material produced by those who were committed to perpetuating its objectives via nationalist and culturally inspired ideals at that time, but it can also be interpreted within existing contemporary mediums of expression invoked by later generations of artists who have seized upon, preserved, and been inspired by the culturally and politically motivated aesthetics promoted by Black Artists of an earlier era. Many scholars have commented on the ways in which some of the BAM’s most popular and controversial rhetorical features...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 165-172)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 173-182)
  13. Index
    (pp. 183-188)