Black Power Movement
During the Black Power Movement, authors like Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and James Baldwin became successful due to their work gaining recognition by the majority of white people. They wrote about the experiences of being black and having pride in oneself. The Black Power Movement greatly affected African American Literature with the diversity of topics for writing, the different kinds of authors, and developing racial pride.
The Black Power Movement changed how African American Literature was written with the diversity of topic choices for writing. For example, the racial injustice black people had to endure was a major topic to write about. They wrote about the Little Rock Nine who were nine African American students enrolled in a newly integrated high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Carlotta Walls was the youngest among the students at fourteen years old. “On February 9, 1960, four weeks before graduation, a bomb exploded at her home. Carlotta, her mother, and her sister were at home but no was injured. Police arrested and beat Carlotta’s father in unsuccessful efforts to coerce a confession.” (The Little Rock Nine) They bombed her house because they didn’t want her to graduate since racism was factor in their town. The police wrongly accused Carlotta’s dad of attacking his own family without any real evidence to prove it. In addition, two young black men named Herbert Monts and Maceo Binns were arrested and sentenced to five years for the crime. Carlotta believed them to be innocent and the police wanted to place the blame on someone else instead of finding who really did it. Another example of racial injustice that was written was the peaceful protesters being attacked at Biloxi beach in Mississippi. “The Biloxi beach wade-in was a locally-organized nonviolent protest that turned into what the New York Times called the worst race riot in Mississippi history.”(Whites Attack Black Protesters at Segregated Mississippi Beach) The protesters were attacked by white men with various weapons because they refused to leave the beach. Since the local authorities did nothing to stop the attacks, white airmen from a nearby base tried to protect the protesters while being attacked by the men on the beach. African Americans had to be escorted home because of how violent the town had become, and some even stayed the night at work. An additional topic choice written about was the development of the black community. Floyd McKissick was a member of the group Congress of Racial Equality or CORE which strongly pushed for better African American communities. “ To this end, he pushed for increased African American control over communities, governments, economics, and schools and used CORE to assist local community leaders in these efforts.”(Goodloe). McKissick wanted to rid African American communities of white rule and wanted them to be more independent by taking care of themselves. He went as far as creating his own integrated community named Soul City in eastern North Carolina with the help of 19 million dollars in federal aid. Soul City could support a population of 55,000 but was deemed unviable. Racial injustice and the development of the black community caused many authors to take a stand by writing about equality and black rights.
Another way African American Literature was affected by the Black Power Movement was the different kinds of authors. At the time, the majority of the writers were male, but many female artists started gaining recognition. Nikki Giovanni was a prominent poet, writer, and activist in during the Black Power Movement. “Giovanni’s first published volumes of poetry grew out of her response to the assassinations of such figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy, and the pressing need she saw to raise awareness of the plight and the rights of black people.”(Nikki Giovanni) She wanted African Americans to keep fighting for racial equality even though they lost their leaders. Giovanni often wrote about unity because she believed goals couldn't be accomplished without people working together. Another author who changed literature was James Baldwin. He was best known for his writings on being a gay black man in America, and the struggle of being black. (10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read). The novel Giovanni’s Room spoke of the taboo traits which was being gay in America and racial issues. In his pieces he wrote how being black felt like he was disturbing the peaceful environment of other people. Baldwin also inspired many to comfortable in the skin they are in and be proud of themselves. Maya Angelou was another great author that changed how African American Literature was written. “She continued to write about civil rights and racism, never shying away from taboo subjects such as sex, abuse and violence.”(Rolfes) In her memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” she goes in depth about her childhood and being raped by her mother's boyfriend. Angelou helped influence people today to freely express themselves through literature. She also wrote on her experiences as woman and fought for women's rights.“Though the Black Arts Movement was largely male dominated, many female artists gained recognition for their works, and several of those women enjoyed lasting fame as their works began to be celebrated by the mainstream.”(Women of the Black Arts Movement). African American women finally were recognized for their work which was encouraging other black women to stand up for themselves and be proud of being black.
Lastly, the development of racial pride has affected how African American Literature has changed. The afro hairstyle was a huge a part of racial pride. “At the end of the 1950s, a small number of young black female dancers and jazz singers broke with prevailing black community norms and wore unstraightened hair.”(Craig) Straightened hair was what white people did to their hair, and blacks copied it hoping they could be accepted. It was common for African American women to straighten their hair protective pomade and a heated metal comb. As the media started taking notice in the change of hairstyle, many African Americans started wearing their hair in that way to symbolize pride in themselves. In addition, the hairstyle help promote the saying “Black is Beautiful”. The Black is Beautiful Movement promoted self-love and appreciation of one's skin tone. Furthermore, the goal was to get rid of the idea that black features were ugly like hair, skin tone, or facial features. The phrase was used in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements to rally African Americans to fight for equality and have acceptance of themselves. The Black Power Movement encouraged racial pride and economic empowerment. “During this era, there was a rise in the demand for black history courses, a greater embrace of African culture, and a spread of raw artistic expression displaying the realities of African Americans.”(Black Power) The movement helped encourage African Americans to learn more about their culture and appreciate their background. The Black Arts Movement had a major impact on African American Literature. “The Black Arts Movement succeeded in increasing black-operated and financed publishing houses and journals. Broadside Press, for example, was one of four black publishing houses operating in the 1960s.”(Raynor). These journals and publishing helped black people discuss the issues they have and even come up with possible solutions.
African American Literature affected African American society because it helped them rally to protest against injustices they were facing. Additionally, it helped them feel pride in themselves and convey their feelings in a different way than protest. This topic stood out in American history because African American Literature has a major impact talking about the experiences of being black and fighting for equality. This even won’t be forgotten in history since it was pivotal moment in African American History. They are fighting for equality and coming together to fix the race issue. In addition, literature will still be in the future, and the people of the future will need to learn of these important events in history.