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Visionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement

Carmen L. Phelps

Publication Year: 2012

A disproportionate number of male writers, including such figures as Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Maulana Karenga, and Haki Madhubuti, continue to be credited for constructing the iconic and ideological foundations for what would be perpetuated as the Black Art Movement. Though there has arisen an increasing amount of scholarship that recognizes leading women artists, activists, and leaders of this period, these new perspectives have yet to recognize adequately the ways women aspired to far more than a mere dismantling of male-oriented ideals.

In Visionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement, Carmen L. Phelps examines the work of several women artists working in Chicago, a key focal point for the energy and production of the movement. Angela Jackson, Johari Amiri, and Carolyn Rodgers reflect in their writing specific cultural, local, and regional insights, and demonstrate the capaciousness of Black Art rather than its constraints. Expanding from these three writers, Phelps analyzes the breadth of women's writing in BAM. In doing so, Phelps argues that these and other women attained advantageous and unique positions to represent the potential of the BAM aesthetic, even if their experiences and artistic perspectives were informed by both social conventions and constraints. In this book, Phelps's examination brings forward a powerful and crucial contribution to the aesthetics and history of a movement that still inspires.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Margaret Walker Alexander Series in African American Studies

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: The Black Arts Movement: Let Me Count the Ways

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pp. 3-22

The Black Arts Movement (BAM) of the late 1960s to mid-1970s remains an elusive and complex configuration of ideologies mutually and often paradoxically reinforced through the artistic, activist, and intellectual collaborations and exchanges between the movement’s key participants and their critics. ...

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Chapter One: Dysfunctional Functionality: Collaboration at Its Best in the Black Arts Era

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pp. 23-55

It is important to consider how the agenda of the Black Arts Movement was shaped by and paradoxically instituted through a collaboration of competing and discordant voices. Whether artists, activists, and intellectuals defined themselves as “Black Artists” during this era or not, many of them favored a socially progressive agenda ...

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Chapter Two: Women Writing Kinship in Chicago’s Black Arts Movement

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pp. 56-75

For artists, activists, and intellectuals of the Black Arts Movement, the collective goal of asserting a new and clearly defined relationship between politics and art in a way that distinguished the movement from that which had been defined by artists of the Harlem Renaissance era in particular cannot be overstated. ...

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Chapter Three: Mirrors of Deception: Invisible, Untouchable, Beautiful Blackness in Johari Amini’s Black Art

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pp. 76-94

In Johari Amini’s “Evolution,” the narrator expresses that mother Africa, as a geographical, historical, and cultural ideal, expands to “black”—a “humaneness movement breathing filling / vasculating knowledge creating soul.” Such an idea is appropriated throughout Amini’s earliest work, published while she served as a member ...

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Chapter Four: Muddying Clear Waters: Carolyn Rodgers’s Black Art

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pp. 95-115

Women writers of the BAM were often susceptible to gendered critiques, and writers like Chicago poet Carolyn Rodgers received their fair share of these, particularly from their male peers. The relationship between gender and artistic production and/or performance was reinforced through such critiques, ...

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Chapter Five: Building a Home, Building a Nation: Family in the City and Beyond in Angela Jackson’s Black Art

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pp. 116-145

If much of the work of Black Artists of the late sixties and early seventies conveyed their collective aspirations to pursue methods of achieving social, political, and cultural empowerment for black communities of the African Diaspora, then Angela Jackson’s “a beginning for new beginnings,” published in her first collection of poetry, ...

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Chapter Six: Mixing Metaphors: Spirituality, Environmentalism, and Dystopia in Carolyn Rodgers’s and Angela Jackson’s Postrace Black Art

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pp. 146-161

Although the legacy of the BAM is often critiqued within the context of the activist practices and art produced by its participants at the height of the movement, it can also be evaluated in later work, since many Black Artists remained prolific beyond the BAM. In many aspects, self-defined Black Artists continue to reprise BAM ideals in more recent work, ...

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Conclusion: You Remind Me . . . “Post–BAM/Soul” Reflections

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pp. 162-164

Not only can the legacy of the Black Arts Movement be critiqued through an examination of the vast pantheon of material produced by those who were committed to perpetuating its objectives via nationalist and culturally inspired ideals at that time, but it can also be interpreted within existing contemporary mediums of expression ...


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pp. 165-172

Works Cited

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pp. 173-182


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pp. 183-188

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039174
E-ISBN-10: 1617036803
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617036804

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Margaret Walker Alexander Series in African American Studies