By James Smethurst

About James Smethurst

James Smethurst is Professor of Afro-­American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His most recent book is titled From Reconstruction to Renaissance: Turn-­of-­Century African American Literature and the Invention of U.S. Modernism (forthcoming).

Black Arts Movement

If one is going to think about the Black Arts Movement (BAM) as a set of keywords, it is important to consider the component words separately, as well as how they work together in describing the black radical cultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s that was inextricably linked to Black Power. That is not simply a question of defining the denotative meanings of “Black,” “Arts,” and “Movement” but also of the qualities of those words in how they combine during the Black Power / Black Arts moment.

No doubt “black” is defined elsewhere in this volume and does not need extended treatment here. However, it is worth noting, as John Bracey Jr. does (2014), that when “black” as a term of identification and solidarity was increasingly deployed, largely through the influence of Malcolm X, it was to a considerable extent a gesture of opposition, of rejection, of rebellion, that …

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