Date of Award

Spring 4-22-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Theodore Mason


The Black Arts Movement (BAM) is often regarded as the artistic backbone of the Black Power movement. Established by the poet Amiri Baraka following the assassination of Malcolm X, the BAM consisted of individuals with various artistic backgrounds, all unified in their commitment to creating art aimed at altering black people’s consciousnesses and embodying the black aesthetic. They hoped their art would empower and liberate black people from the psychologically alienating impacts of white supremacy. To accomplish this objective, these artists produced work that attempted to depict authentic black experiences in the U.S., enduring racism and other forms of societal oppression. Their work is known for expressing the unfiltered and raw frustration many black people felt during the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately, in embracing militancy, many male members of the BAM adopted hyper-masculine views. This propagated a black male subjectivity that compelled some members to use misogynistic and homophobic language to insult those they deemed weak. However, while certain members may have held male chauvinistic beliefs, it does not justify the assertions that the movement was monolithic. By examining The Fire Next Time, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this thesis argues that the BAM was more complex and ideologically diverse than it is given credit for and deserves recognition for its impact on influencing how later black artists have used art to influence U.S. culture.

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