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

By James Edward Smethurst | Go to book overview

5
Bandung World: The West Coast, the Black
Arts Movement, and the Development of
Revolutionary Nationalism, Cultural Nationalism,
Third Worldism, and Multiculturalism

To paraphrase W.E.B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk, one might say that the various regional expressions of the Black Arts movement brought their own special gifts to it. The Left nationalist and bohemian antiacademic milieu of the Northeast provided a space for the development of a Black Arts cadre. This milieu also left a lasting imprint on Black Arts ideology, particularly in the notion of what I have called a popular avant-garde. The institution-building impulse in the Midwest, establishing black journals, presses, theaters, workshops, and organizations of writers, visual artists, and musicians that reached tens of thousands (and in some cases, hundreds of thousands) of people across the United States, provided much of the material base of the movement as well as models for similar activities in other regions. And as we will see in the next chapter, the Black Arts movement in the South was ultimately the most successful in reaching a broad grassroots regional constituency while ideologically imparting a sense of the movement as a genuine expression of the entire black nation throughout the United States (and beyond) because of the South's symbolic and demographic importance for African Americans.

Nonetheless, it was the West Coast that saw perhaps the most influential regional expressions of the Black Arts and Black Power movements. In some ways,

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