Black Arts Movement

Black Arts Movement is an art movement created by the Black artists celebrating Black identity and culture. As the considered father of the movement, we can say poet Baraka’s name. 

The movement began symbolically after the assassination of Malcolm X. Later, Baraka founded the Black Repertory Theatre for workshops in poetry, playwriting, music, and painting. However, the Black Arts Movement reached its peak in the mid-70s by producing radical music, art, poetry, and theatre. 

When it comes to visual arts, artists’ main themes were pride in black identity and lifestyle and Black’s liberation. Many of them utilized appropriation, photo-screen printing, and collage.

Besides the poets, writers, musicians, some of the famous painters of the movement are Benny Andrews, Cleveland Bellow, Marie Johnson Calloway, Jeff Donaldson, Ben Hazard, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Ben Jones, Carolyn Lawrence, Dindga McCannon, John T. Riddle, Lev T. Millis, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Barkley L. Hendricks, Vincent D. Smith, Walter Williams.

Some of the famous painters of the Black Arts Movements:

Barbara Jones – Hogu

Jones – Hogu is a founding member of the artist collective AfriCOBRA. Also she was an artist, educator, and filmmaker. Her best-known artwork is “Unite,” which she created in 1969 in screen-print. Her art revolved around the Black Power movement’s ideas: self-determination, unity, and black pride. Although she is famous for her screen-prints, she was also a painter, and in 1967 she contributed to the mural Wall of Respect on Chicago’s South Side. Later on, she started to utilize digital imagery and creating documentary films.

James Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, who is recognized as “One of America’s leading modern figurative painters” by the New York Times, was a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Besides teaching, he spent much of his time painting commissions and producing limited-edition prints to help fund nonprofits like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Schomburg Center for Research Black Culture.

Jacob Lawrence, Confrontation at the Bridge from the series “Not Songs of Loyalty Alone: The Struggle for Personal Freedom”, painting, 1975.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

He was one of the most iconic artists of the ’80s. Besides being a poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy Jean-Michel Basquiat addressed everything from his Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage to political issues pop-culture icons. Today, The Museum of Modern Art collections held Basquiat’s works in New York, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Dindga McCannon

Contemporary artist Dindga McCannon was born and raised in Harlem in 1947. She was inspired to become an artist at the age of 10. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, artists created collectives to fight sexism and racism in the art world. It is how McCannon became interested in the Black Arts movement and joined the Weusi Artist Collective.” In the 1960’s I met this group of black artists and it was perfect timing because the whole civil rights movement was going on and I believed very much in our struggle for equality in the then (and now) racist America.”


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Harlem Renaissance

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