Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Black Pride & Black Arts Poetry

Displays of black pride or affirmations of African American people and culture were defining features of the Black Arts Movement. Poets, no doubt, were integral to the presentation of ideas and messages celebrating the value and values of black people.

The production of so many anthologies during the black arts era made it possible for a common group of poems to appear frequently, even poems that were first written long before the 1960s. The frequent publication of poems by earlier and elder generations of writers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Hayden, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Margaret Walker, for example, reminded readers that poets had a long history of celebrating African American people and culture.

Somewhat younger poets such as Carolyn Rdogers, Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni, Askia Toure, and many others wrote about black cultural life with a heightened sense of militancy. They often highlighted and prompted a level of activism and advocacy work on behalf of black interests in their works.

The absence of large bodies of easily available materials on black historical figures and expressive traditions meant that poets were filling an important void by writing so much about various aspects of the past, slavery and liberation struggles, Africa, music, and inspiring figures such as Malcolm X and John Coltrane. Black pride in poetry was and has often operated as a counter to anti-black racism, especially the systematic and pervasive erasure of African American people and contributions and the mistreatment of black folks.

This entry is part of a series--30 Days of Black Arts Poetry.

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