Black Arts Movement

Discover insightful analysis of some of the most prominent voices of the Black Arts Movement, including Amiri Baraka and James Baldwin. Learn how each narrative interprets common themes of identity, racism, liberation, and celebrating the Black experience.

Publication year 1964Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & AngerTags Black Arts Movement, Race / Racism

Publication year 1959Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Music, Relationships: Fathers, Identity: GenderTags American Literature, African American Literature, Black Arts Movement

When Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959, it was the first play by a Black woman to open on Broadway, as well as the first play with a Black director. The title comes from Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem,” which asks, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Content Warning: The play and this guide discuss themes of racism and slavery.The play tells the... Read A Raisin in the Sun Summary

Publication year 1963Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Lyric Poem, Black Arts Movement

Publication year 1964Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags African American Literature, Black Arts Movement

“A Visit to Grandmother” is a short story by American author William Melvin Kelley, first published in his collection Dancers on the Shore (1964). The story centers around Chig, a 17-year-old boy, and his father, Dr. Charles Dunford, as they visit Chig’s grandmother in Nashville, Tennessee. During their visit, Charles challenges issues that have long damaged his relationship with his mother, and the confrontation reaches a breaking point when he exposes his long-held resentment over... Read A Visit to Grandmother Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & YouthTags Black Arts Movement, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 1971Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: Class, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Race / Racism, Black Arts Movement

Publication year 1987Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Race / Racism, Social Justice, Black Arts Movement

Publication year 1978Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Identity: Mental HealthTags Black Arts Movement, African American Literature, Depression / Suicide, Mental Illness

Publication year 1964Genre Play, FictionTags Black Arts Movement

Dutchman is a one-act play written by LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), which first debuted Off-Broadway in 1964, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The play focuses on Clay, a 20-year-old African-American man wearing a suit and tie, and Lula, a 30-year-old white woman, who meet on a subway train in New York City during the summer.The play begins with Clay sitting on the subway, reading and looking idly out the... Read Dutchman Summary

Publication year 1968Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: EqualityTags Lyric Poem, African American Literature, Black Arts Movement, Black Lives Matter, Gender / Feminism, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Race / Racism, Mythology

“Ego Tripping,” also known as “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why),” is one of American poet Nikki Giovanni’s most well-known poems. Giovanni first published this poem in 1972, which is the year that also marks Giovanni’s first trip to Africa, three years after the birth of her son. As the title of the poem suggests, this poem is a fulsome celebration of the many facets of Giovanni’s identity as a Black woman. Written... Read Ego Tripping Summary

Publication year 1965Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: RaceTags Black Arts Movement, Existentialism

Written by African-American author James Baldwin in 1965, this short story tells of the racial violence and strife between black and white Americans in a rural Southern town during the American Civil Rights Movement. The story's main character, Jesse, is a white sheriff's deputy. The story begins on the evening after Jesse and other police officers have arrested and brutally tortured a young black man protesting outside the courthouse.Jesse lays in bed with his wife... Read Going To Meet The Man Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Race / Racism, Black Arts Movement, Existentialism

I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin and Raoul Peck is an accompanying text to the 2016 documentary of the same name, directed by Peck. The documentary was released to critical acclaim. It won Best Documentary award at the BAFTA Film Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The text is essentially a transcript of the film, incorporating excerpts of interviews, television features, and films.I Am Not Your Negro... Read I Am Not Your Negro Summary

Publication year 1974Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Classic Fiction, Black Arts Movement, Romance, Modern Classic Fiction, American Literature, Existentialism, African American Literature

If Beale Street Could Talk is a novel by James Baldwin (1924-1987), a critically acclaimed African American writer on matters of race and the African American experience. Originally published in 1974, the novel gained fresh attention with Barry Jenkins’ film adaptation in 2019. The novel is the love story of salesclerk Clementine “Tish” Rivers and budding sculptor Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, African American natives of Harlem whose lives are derailed in the late 1960s to early... Read If Beale Street Could Talk Summary

Publication year 1926Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Equality, Identity: RaceTags Lyric Poem, Race / Racism, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, African American Literature, Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement

Publication year 1953Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: MarriageTags Black Arts Movement, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, African American Literature

Maud Martha (1953) is a fictional narrative by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks. The book is written in an experimental style combining poetic language and a nonlinear narrative. Each chapter is a vignette, a quick glimpse into an everyday scene in the life of the title character. Brooks’s only novel, Maud Martha was praised for its depiction of ordinary people and everyday life in Chicago. This guide is based upon the 1993 Third World Press... Read Maud Martha Summary

Publication year 1955Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & AngerTags Sociology, Existentialism, Black Arts Movement, Black Lives Matter

Notes of a Native Son is a collection of nonfiction essays by James Baldwin. Baldwin originally published the essays individually in various literary and cultural commentary magazines between 1948 and 1955. The Beacon Press first republished the essays as Notes of a Native Son in 1955. This study guide refers to the 2012 Beacon Press edition of Notes of a Native Son. Citations to page numbers, however, come from the volume The Price of the... Read Notes of a Native Son Summary

Publication year 1957Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Music, Existentialism, Black Arts Movement

“Sonny’s Blues” is a short story by author James Baldwin, which was published in the literary magazine Partisan Review in 1957. The story was later included in a 1965 collection of Baldwin’s stories, Going to Meet the Man. “Sonny’s Blues” describes the relationship between an unnamed narrator and his younger brother, Sonny. The story explores how the experience of growing up Black amid racism and poverty impacts a person’s psychology and relationships. This guide follows... Read Sonny's Blues Summary

Publication year 1987Genre Poem, FictionThemes Relationships: Teams, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Race / Racism, African American Literature, Black Arts Movement

Publication year 2014Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Race / Racism, Social Justice, Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement

Publication year 1993Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Play: Drama, Play: Historical, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, African American Literature, Black Arts Movement, Race / Racism, Class, Finance / Money / Wealth

Two Trains Running by August Wilson first opened in 1990 at the Yale Repertory Theatre with Samuel L. Jackson as Wolf and Laurence Fishburne playing Sterling. The play premiered on Broadway in 1992, receiving four Tony nominations in 1992 including Best Play. Two Trains Running is a part of Wilson’s Century Cycle, also known as the Pittsburgh Cycle, which consists of 10 plays: one for each decade of the 20th century, each depicting the changing... Read Two Trains Running Summary

Publication year 1991Genre Poem, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Identity: RaceTags LGBTQ, Black Arts Movement, Poverty

Publication year 1996Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Life/Time: The Past, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Race / Racism, Black Lives Matter, History: U.S., Black Arts Movement, Afrofuturism

Publication year 1960Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Classic Fiction, Black Arts Movement, Lyric Poem, Harlem Renaissance, Food

Gwendolyn Brooks stands among the foremost American poets of the 20th century. A master of poetic form and portraiture, she explored black life in Chicago, where she lived for the majority of her life. The poem “We Real Cool,” Brooks’s most famous work, appeared in her 1960 collection The Bean Eaters.As a fledgling writer, Brooks combined early influences from the literary era of modernism, defined by poets like Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, and... Read We Real Cool Summary

Publication year 1982Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Identity: SexualityTags Gender / Feminism, LGBTQ, Black Arts Movement, Women's Studies (Nonfiction)

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is a biomythography concerning the coming-of-age of poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992). This work of creative nonfiction conflates the author’s memoir—which spans from the time of her birth to her early twenties—with West Indian mythology and stories, as well as the author’s own poetry. In this way, the work exists as something other than a simple autobiography, as it emphasizes the importance of dreams, stories, and songs within the... Read Zami: A New Spelling of My Name Summary