The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s

By James Edward Smethurst | Go to book overview

4
Institutions for the People: Chicago, Detroit, and
the Black Arts Movement in the Midwest

Though the Northeast has often been the regional focus of accounts of the Black Arts movement, due largely to the national reputation of Amiri Baraka, the Midwest and the San Francisco Bay Area birthed the most important and most enduring Black Arts institutions. The Midwest, home of Broadside Press, Free Lance Press, Lotus Press, and Third World Press (now the oldest continuously functioning African American-run literary publisher), was the heart of African American independent publishing. A host of nationally influential newspapers, journals, artists' groups and workshops, theaters, book clubs, anthologies, and schools also emerged in the Midwest. Some of these included Negro Digest (later Black World), Black Books Bulletin, OBAC, AFRI-COBRA, the Kuumba Workshop, Concept East Theatre, Affro-Arts Theater, the eta Creative Arts Foundation, the AACM, the Institute for Positive Education, BAG, and Katherine Dunham's Performing Arts Training Center. In fact, we owe much of the physical record of Black Arts literature today to midwestern institutions, since Broadside Press, Third World Press, and Lotus Press alone produced an inordinately high proportion of the titles issued by black publishers in the 1960s and 1970s, sometimes with sales in the tens of thousands–a remarkable feat for small press poetry publications. And as Haki Madhubuti notes, if one wants to get a sense of the development and range of the Black Power and Black Arts movements, the first thing to do is to look at the run of Negro Digest/Black World.1

Detroit and Chicago stand out as hubs of the movement not only regionally

-179-

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