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The Black Arts Movement

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Social Studies +2 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), Post-Secondary

“Sometimes referred to as 'the artistic sister of the Black Power Movement,' the Black Arts Movement stands as the single most controversial moment in the history of African-American literature—possibly in American literature as a whole. Although it fundamentally changed American attitudes both toward the function and meaning of literature as well as the place of ethnic literature in English departments, African-American scholars as prominent as Henry Louis Gates, Jr., have deemed it the 'shortest and least successful' movement in African American cultural history."--"Black Creativity: On the Cutting Edge," Time (Oct. 10, 1994)

This topical collection includes background information as well as examples of poetry and art from the Black Arts Movement. Two excerpts from essays are also included. There are also some examples of works from artists who rejected the premise of the Black Arts Movement.

Students could use this collection as a starting point for further research or to create an illustrated timeline of the movement. Works could be analyzed for their reflection or rejection of themes like: black nationalism, self-determination, "the black is beautiful" movement, and liberation. Students could also evaluate the merits of the arguments for and against a "black arts movement" as articulated by Karenga and Saunders in the text excerpts.

This is a work-in-progress based on the digitized materials within the Smithsonian Learning Lab's collection--it is not meant to be wholly definitive or authoritative.

Pinback button of Malcolm X

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Amiri Baraka

National Portrait Gallery

A Poem for Black Hearts

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Poem on the art of Charles White

Archives of American Art

Maya Angelou

National Portrait Gallery

News clipping from the New York Times

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Resting

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Ironer, 1964

Anacostia Community Museum

Revolutionary

National Museum of African American History and Culture

America Free Angela

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Faith Ringgold Self-Portrait

National Portrait Gallery

Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson

National Portrait Gallery

Reginald Gammon

Archives of American Art

Ghana Women Dancing

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Angela Libre

National Portrait Gallery

Romare Bearden

National Portrait Gallery

Roots

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Untitled (Black in America)

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Black Madonna and Child

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Prevalence of Ritual: Baptism

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Hallucination

National Museum of African Art

The End of the Beginning

National Museum of African Art

Ray Saunders

Archives of American Art

Untitled

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Red Abstraction

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Sam Gilliam

Archives of American Art

Swing

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Richard Hunt

Archives of American Art

Study for Richmond Cycle

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Richard Mayhew

Archives of American Art

Trees

Smithsonian American Art Museum