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Black Arts Movement Essay

The Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance

BAM, or the Black Arts Movement, represents an artistic branch of the Black Power movement. It was started by Amiri Baraka in Harlem. The Time magazine wrote that this movement was the most controversial in the African-American literature. BAM’s key institution was the Black Arts Repertory Theatre.

The Black Arts Movement became a milestone in the history, as it was the one that inspired black people to open their magazines, art institutions, journals and publishing houses. As a result of BAM, the African American Studies programs were launched in many universities. The assassination of Malcolm X triggered the movement. Among well-known authors that took part in the movement there were Sonia Sanchez, Hoyt W. Fuller, Nikki Giovanni and others.

The main achievement brought by the BAM was the inspiration it gave to the black people and all the works created as a result. It not only gave hope to people, but also inspired Asian Americans and Latinos to develop their own cultures, which means that there is no necessity to assimilate the native culture to the American one. Besides, the literary canon received the diversity it lacked so much. From that time on, there developed the ability to express ideas from the standpoint of ethnic and racial minorities.

The Harlem Renaissance is the name of cultural movement that took place between 1920s and 1930s, It was called “New Negro Movement” in honor of the anthology written by Alain Locke in 1925. Its center was in Harlem, New York City, but many French-speaking black writers who lived in Paris were also influenced by it. Its main achievement was…

August Wilson was born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He grew up during the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 60s, one of the most tumultuous periods in American History.  Wilson often described his influences as “the four Bs”:  Jorge Luis Borges (an originator of the magical realism literary genre), Blues music, Romare Bearden (an African American artist famous for his collages depicting everyday Black life), and Amiri Baraka (the leading figure of the Black Arts Movement). 

The Black Arts Movement emerged from the political ideology of Black Power, which arose out of the frustrations African Americans felt about the failures of the Civil Rights Movement to bring about the social and economic changes that would have been necessary to achieve true equality.  While Civil Rights legislation brought about real changes in terms of voting rights and desegregation, social, political, and economic inequality remained a reality for most Black Americans. 

During the 1960s and 70s, the Black Power ideology promoted nationalism, racial pride, and self-determination for African Americans, often placing its adherents at odds with the mainstream Civil Rights Movement and its emphasis on integration of Blacks into the larger (and predominantly White) American society.  The Black Arts Movement, founded by the writer and activist Amiri Baraka, functioned as the aesthetic complement to Black Power, and was based on ideals of beauty centered on Black culture and experiences.   The movement sought to fulfill W.E.B. DuBois’ call for art that is “about us,” “by us,” “for us,” and “near us.” 

The Black Arts movement has had a lasting influence on African American culture, but its legacy is much broader, influencing people of color and other minority groups across the United States and the world. Many Latino/a, American Indian, Asian, and LGBT writers and artists have credited the movement with inspiring them to explore and take pride in their history, experiences, and identities. 

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