Language and Literature in the African American Imagination

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

4
Reassessing African American
Literature through an Afrocentric
Paradigm: Zora N. Hurston and
James Baldwin

Carolyn L. Holmes

Nearly a quarter of a century ago the social and cultural fabric of the United States of America was shaken to the core of its European foundations by what has been termed a Black Revolution or Black Power Movement. The year 1966 witnessed the official beginning of this movement, when Stokely Carmichael, the new chairman of the Student Non- violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), announced his organization's redirection from its traditional methods of demonstrating and protesting for the civil rights denied to African Americans citizens, by laws and custom, for more than a century.

Carmichael challenged all "thinking" black folk to join SNCC in its quest for Black Power. The voice of Larry Neal, poet, critic, editor, and declared Black Nationalist, was soon heard responding to this call. Neal become the leading spirit and voice of the Black Arts Movement, which he referred to as the "aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. As such, it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America" ( Neal, 1972:272).

A few years later he further explained the concept in an essay entitled "The Black Arts Movement" in The Black Aesthetic. The movement was described in its introduction

as a corrective--a means of helping black people out of the polluted mainstream of Americanism and offering logical, reasoned arguments as to why African American writers should not desire to join the ranks of a Norman Mailer or a William Styron. To be an American writer is to be an American, and for black

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