The Black Arts Movement
During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, the Black Arts Movement took the Black aesthetic to new heights. Originally started in Harlem in 1965 by LeRoi Jones, the Black Arts Movement, (primarily a literary movement), a commune of Black Arts, Black Power, and Afri-Cobra movements, defined a general Black aesthetic that collectively embraced the notion that the Black aesthetic be rooted within the core of Black life. In Gayle Addison’s edited volume, The Black Aesthetic, it is well asserted that the central component to Black artistic endeavors not be nested within “…aesthetic philosophies or aesthetic history, but in Black History, Black culture, and Black social life.” During the Black Arts Movement, visual communication presented Blacks with the opportunity to embrace their own culture by bringing issues of social, economic, and political conditions to the forefront of American life. Graphic design was used to produce connotations of Blackness–Black as beautiful, creative, militant, and proud (fig.01). Emory Douglas, artist/designer, and minister of culture for the Black Panther party, viewed revolutionary art as the only means of expressing “the correct picture of our struggle.”
(Fig.01) Art by Emory Douglas
(Fig.02) The Black Panther Party created a newsletter to keep the Black community up to date with current affairs.
AfriCOBRA, Wadsworth Jarrell, Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1972
The Black Arts Movement provides an interesting model for contemporary design practice today, because it links to a visual form can be used to integrate a system of value, awareness, and empowerment that embodies the philosophies of Black life.
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