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Say It Loud

Givens Collection
Givens Foundation

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Chapter Four

The Black Arts Movement was the creative companion to the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Like the first renaissance centered in Harlem, it was a time of explosive and energetic artistic expression.


The revolutionary artwork of this era is rooted in the subtle and sublime work of Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks broke ground as a gifted young novelist and poet. As a mature writer, she brought along young writers like Hakimahtabuti (Don Lee) and helped solidify African-American publishing efforts like Broadside Press and Third World Press.

Sandy Adell (Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin) says Brooks was well suited to nurture the movement because of her literary and community. "She was a one of America's great poets, the first Black person to ever win the Pulitzer Prize." In addition to her literary strengths, Adell points out that Brooks’ leadership is also due to her being a ‘True role model and a genuine person."

Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets
Clean out the world for virtue and love,
Let there be no love poems written
until love can exist freely and
cleanly. Let Black People understand
that they are the lovers and the sons
of lovers and warriors and sons
of warriors Are poems & poets &
all the loveliness here in the world

We want a black poem. And a
Black World.
Let the world be a Black Poem
And Let All Black People Speak This Poem

        -Gwendolyn Brooks

When I was a child, it did not occur to me, even once, that the black in which I was encased (I called it brown in those days) would be considered, one day, beautiful. considered beautiful and called beautiful by great groups. I had always considered it beautiful. I would stick out my arm, examine it, and smile. Charming! And convenient, for mud on my leg was not as annunciatory as was mud on the leg of light rose hurd.
Charm -- and efficiency.

        -Gwendolyn Brooks

The potency of the Black Arts Movement is symbolized by founding author Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) whose plays, essays and poetry put a point of the fervor or the era. Before leading the Black Arts Movement, Baraka was part of the beat culture scene in New York's Greenwich Village. But the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, signaled a change in writer and for America. The anger and energy of black nationalism invigorated all aspects of art.

Male writers like Baraka and Matabuti seemed to dominated the Black Arts Movement. But there were many African-American women writers who were less visible, but whose work is just as lasting. Among these women is Nikki Giovanni. Meshing motherhood with revolutionary writing, Giovanni often created poetry for young people like her poetry anthology ‘Ego Trippin.’

I was born in the Congo

I walked to the fertile crescent and built

the sphinx

I designed a pyramid so tough that a star

that only glows every one hundred years falls

into the center giving divine perfect light

I am bad

        -Nikki Giovanni, Ego Trippin'

Alexs D. Pate was among the young black artists influenced by the Black Arts Movement. Pate’s work includes the award-winning novel, "Losing Absolom," and "Amistad," the companion novel to the Steven Spielberg film. Pate (University of Minnesota) points to the work of Giovanni, Baraka and the other writers of the Black Arts movement as a continuing source of inspiration. "I think that the Black Arts Movement is still present in me. That's where I learned about what good writing was. That's where I learned about what my responsibilities, what I would take on for myself as "purpose," as a Black writer."

movieLiterature And Life: The Givens Collection - Full Show


Author: Pate, Alexs D., 1950-
Title: Losing Absalom : a novel / by Alexs D. Pate.
Published: Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, 1994.

Author: Baraka, Imamu Amiri, 1934- ed.
Title: Black fire : an anthology of Afro-American writing / edited by LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal.
Published: New York : Morrow, 1968.

Author: Baraka, Imamu Amiri, 1934-
Title: The autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka.
Published: New York : Freundlich Books : Distributed to the trade by Scribner, c1984.

Author: Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917-
Title: Report from part one / Gwendolyn Brooks ; prefaces by Don L. Lee and George Kent.
Published: Detroit : Broadside Press, c1972

Author: Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917-
Title: Riot / Gwendolyn Brooks ; frontispiece by Jeff Donaldson.
Published: Detroit : Broadside Press, c1969.

Author: Madhubuti, Haki R., 1942-
Title: Don't cry, scream / by Don L. Lee ; introduction by Gwendolyn Brooks.
Published: Detroit : Broadside Press, c1969.

Author: Giovanni, Nikki.
Title: Ego-tripping and other poems for young people / by NikkiGiovanni ; with illustrations by George Ford.
Published: New York : L. Hill ; <distributed by Independent Publishers Group>, c1973.

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