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Spectacular Blackness

The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic

Amy Abugo Ongiri

Publication Year: 2010

Amy Ongiri explores the interface between Black Power politics, the Black Arts cultural movement, and the production of postwar African American popular culture (from novels to hip hop and film) to show how formative they were for the construction of Black identity and the emergence of a Black aesthetic in the 1960s and 1970s.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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Cotton Comes to Harlem: An Introduction

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pp. 1-27

In 1966 James Meredith, a nonviolence advocate, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African American to graduate from the University of Mississippi, began a symbolic walk across the state of Mississippi that he called “The March against Fear.”1 Meredith hoped that his act would “tear down the fear that grips the Negroes in Mississippi,” but the...

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1. “Black Is Beautiful!”: Black Power Culture, Visual Culture, and the Black Panther Party

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pp. 29-57

Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s simple formulation of the factors that enabled the 1965 revolution in Cuba and that could potentially enable revolution throughout the world were widely read and highly influential among all who considered themselves dispossessed and revolutionary during the social and cultural upheaval of the mid-1960s to late 1970s. In a 1968 film, ...

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2. Radical Chic: Affiliation, Identification, and the Black Panther Party

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pp. 58-87

In 1970, Tom Wolfe published two short accounts of the exchange between black radical politics and its white supporters that would become foundational to the ways in which that interaction would come to be defined. The cover of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers sports a satirical photograph of a well-coifed white woman on the lap of an African American...

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3. “We Waitin’ on You”: Black Power, Black Intellectuals, and the Search to Define a Black Aesthetic

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pp. 88-123

On 24 March 1964, LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman opened at the Cherry Lane Theater, an off-Broadway stage. The play, which was both groundbreaking and controversial, would go on to win an Obie Award. Langston Hughes would characterize 1964 as “The Jones Year,” noting that Jones’s plays were so controversial that of the five staged in New York in 1964, ...

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4. “People Get Ready!”: Music, Revolutionary Nationalism, and the Black Arts Movement

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pp. 124-158

“Theme music . . . every hero needs to have some,” says the hero of Keenan Ivory Wayans’s underappreciated spoof of Blaxploitation films, I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988). For the African American heroes of the struggle for social justice, this was undoubtedly true. Historically, African American culture has regarded musical genres as arbiters of heroic proportions for...

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5. “You Better Watch This Good Shit!”: Black Spectatorship, Black Masculinity, and Blaxploitation Film

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pp. 159-185

In 1965 much of the world watched on television as the Watts section of Los Angeles exploded in what was up until then the largest urban uprising of its kind in U.S. history. Images of African American bodies as active agents of violence in the rioting and as the inescapable victims of the batons and bullets of the Los Angeles Police Department and the National Guard were...

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Conclusion: Dick Gregory at the Playboy Club

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pp. 187-193

Despite the fact that Richard Wright’s Black Power! A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos was one of the first widely disseminated texts to use the term “Black Power,” it is profoundly ambivalent in relation to intraracial unity, the notion of a shared racial memory, and the African liberation movements that the Black Power movement would later celebrate. Wright, ...


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pp. 195-204


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pp. 205-218


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pp. 219-223

E-ISBN-13: 9780813929606
E-ISBN-10: 0813929601
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928593
Print-ISBN-10: 0813928591

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 753976363
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Spectacular Blackness

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Black nationalism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Black Arts movement.
  • Black Panther Party -- History.
  • Arts -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Race identity.
  • Black power -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American arts -- 20th century
  • African Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
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