Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dudley Randall & Broadside Press

Self-determination and black nationalist interests were prevalent ideas in black arts discourse. The idea that black people (and artists) have the right to dictate their lives and communities and the notion that they constituted a nation or expansive interconnected group were in fact cornerstones of the Black Arts Movement.

Dudley Randall's Broadside Press was one of the most notable material manifestations of self-determination and a black nationalist ethos in the histories and production of African American poetry. Randall's press produced broadsides, anthologies, individual volumes, a series of critical works, and audio recordings. From 1965 when Broadside Press was founded throughout the black arts era, Randall's company published a wide range and large number of poets, including Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Nikki Giovanni, Robert Hayden, Etheridge Knight, Audre Lorde, Haki Madhubuti, and Margaret Walker.

The diversity of the poets that Broadside Press published was as impressive as the large numbers of writers the press brought into print. Publishing under the Broadside imprint implied that the poets were connected to a common artistic enterprise and that they were committed to a distinct African American cultural institution. People who bought and owned literary products produced by Broadside Press were similarly linked to that common enterprise and institution.

Although many of the more popular black arts poets were celebrated, in part, because of their youth, Randall's status as a somewhat older poet was vital to his ability to work with a wide-ranging group of elder and younger poets. His press was crucial in facilitating the production of tribute poems, including the well-known anthology For Malcolm X as well as several poems celebrating black music by its many poets.

Broadside Press was always, financially speaking, a small-time operation in comparison to the major, large-scale publishing houses primarily based in New York City. But, the symbolic capital of Randall's press, especially among poets and readers of the black arts era was far-reaching and profound.

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

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