With Fists Raised

BookWith Fists Raised

With Fists Raised

Radical Art, Contemporary Activism, and the Iconoclasm of the Black Arts Movement


May 1st, 2021



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There are deep black nationalist roots for many of the images and ideologies of contemporary racial justice efforts. This collection reconsiders the Black Aesthetic and the revolutionary art of the Black Arts Movement (BAM), forging connections between the recent past and contemporary social justice activism. Focusing on black literary and visual art of the Black Arts Movement, this collection highlights artists whose work diverged from narrow definitions of the Black Aesthetic and black nationalism. Adding to the reanimation of discourses surrounding BAM, this collection comes at a time when today’s racial justice efforts are mining earlier eras for their iconography, ideology, and implementation. As numerous contemporary activists ground their work in the legacies of mid-twentieth century activism and adopt many of the grassroots techniques it fostered, this collection remembers and re-envisions the art that both supported and shaped that earlier era. It furthers contemporary conversations by exploring BAM’s implications for cultural and literary studies and its legacy for current social justice work and the multiple arts that support it.

'A unique text that will make an important contribution by fresh voices to the growing body of scholarship on the Black Arts Movement.'
Jonathan Fenderson, Associate Professor, African & African-American Studies, Washington University in St. Louis


Author Information

Tru Leverette is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Africana Studies at the University of North Florida.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Foreword: The Umbra Origins of the Black Arts Movement 7
Introduction: Why the Black Arts Movement Matters Now 17
Part 1: Roots35
1. “Mother of us poets”: Margaret Walker and the Black Arts Movement37
2. Myths, Stereotypes, Sexual Politics, and the Black Power Movement in Alice Childress’s Wine in the Wilderness57
3. Sonia Sanchez: A Dynamic Voice of Black Arts Poetry81
4. Against the Grain: Alice Childress and the Black Arts Movement101
Part 2: Re-Envisionings123
5. Humor in Hue: Gag Cartoons as Satire in Black World Magazine during the Black Arts Movement, 1970–19125
6. Freeing Black: Myth, Language, and Revolution via Fran Ross’s Oreo141
7. Stepping to His Own Music: Influences and Plurality of Black Identities in the Work of William Melvin Kelley157
8. Fighting the Wrongheaded Doppelgänger Ishmael Reed and the Media177
9. Rage Against the Machine: Black Impotency and the Failures of Liberalism in Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman and The Slave203
Part 3: Revivals223
10. The Black Arts Movement: A Visual Arts Perspective225
11. Updating the Legacy of the Black Arts Movement and Staying Relevant: Reconnecting with Africa in Ishmael Reed’s Japanese by Spring249
12. BAM Legacies and the “Inner Life” in the Contemporary Poetry of Rickey Laurentiis and Danez Smith: Discovering a Twenty-First-Century Dialogic Sublime269
13. Being Alive. Being a Woman. Being Colored: The Dilemma of Being Black and Female at the Intersection of Visual and Performance Art during the Black Arts Movement293