Black Arts Movement


The Black Arts Movement (mid-1960s to mid-1970s) was led by African American cultural practitioners as the “aesthetic and spiritual sister” of the Black Power movement. Its activist principles encouraged the foundation of black-run publishing houses, theaters, and spaces of artistic production and exhibition. Advanced in 1968 as envisioning an art that “speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America” by poet Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and writer Larry Neal, the Black Arts Movement urged the reinforcement of such mantras as “Black is beautiful” and James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” in the form of a recognizable iconography. For example, Jae Jarrell created Urban Wall Suit (1969), a multicolored suit crafted to appear as a graffiti-covered brick wall and a walking sign of the public voice. Iconic images of activists such as Bob Marley, Angela Davis, and Malcolm X pervaded art and popular culture at this time, as did other symbols like the raised fist, Afro hairstyle, and vivid graphic patterns inspired by art and textiles of the African Diaspora. Visual artists often used techniques such as appropriation, photo-screen printing, and collage, which lent themselves easily to reproduction and dissemination.

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