U.S.A. / 1966
Born Leroy Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey, Amiri Baraka is widely credited with spearheading the pivotal Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s. Motivated by the death of Malcolm X, in 1965 Baraka moved to Harlem and established the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. The creation of this institution catalyzed the creation of other Black Arts institutions around the country. In his 1968 essay, "The Black Arts Movement," author Larry Neal defined the movement as the "aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept." The Black Arts movement included the creation of literary journals, magazines, and other Black-led institutions that published and promoted radical works of poetry, prose, and screenplays. A key goal of the movement was to encourage Black writers to write politically. The movement fashioned writing and art as weapons against white supremacy. Baraka's poem "Black Art" can be seen as a kind of manifesto for the movement, which helped spur the careers of influential writers like Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, and Ntozake Shange. It's safe to say that without the Black Arts Movement and Amiri Baraka, a lot of Black writers wouldn't have the chance to be on bookshelves today. We are seriously indebted to these trailblazers. Learn more about Amiri Baraka's fascinating life here. Read the poem "Black Art" in full here.