What is “Black art”? This question was posed and answered time and time again between 1960 and 1980 by artists, curators and critics deeply affected by this turbulent period of radical social and political upheaval in America. Rather than answering in one way, they argued for radically different ideas of what “Black art” meant.
Across newspapers and magazines, catalogs, pamphlets, interviews, public talks and panel discussions, a lively debate emerged between artists and others to address profound questions of how Black artists should or should not deal with politics, about what audiences they should address and inspire, where they should try to exhibit, how their work should be curated, and whether there was or was not such a category as “Black art” in the first place.
Conceived as a reader connected to the landmark exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which shone a light on the vital contributions made by Black artists over two decades, this anthology collects over 150 texts from the artists, critics, curators and others who sought to shape and define the art of their time.
Exhaustively researched and edited by exhibition curator Mark Godfrey, who provides the substantial introduction, and Allie Biswas, included are rare and out-of-print texts from artists and writers, as well as texts published for the first time ever.
Contributors include: Lawrence Alloway, Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Tomei Arai, Ralph Arnold, Dore Ashton, Malcolm Bailey, Amiri Baraka, Romare Beardon, Fred Beauford, Cleveland Bellow, LeGrace G. Benson, Dawoud Bey, Camille Billops, Lula Mae Blocton, Gloria Bohanon, Claude Booker, Frank Bowling, David Bradford, Peter Bradley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kay Brown, Milton Brown, Vivian Browne, Linda G. Bryant, Margaret G. Burroughs, Debbie Butterfield, Steve Cannon, Yvonne Parks Catchings, Elizabeth Catlett, Dana Chandler, Claudia Chapline, Charles Childs, A.D. Coleman, Dan Concholar, John Coplans, Hugh M. Davies, Douglas Davis, Bing Davis, Alonzo Davis, Dale Davis, Melvin Dixon, Jeff Donaldson, Robert Doty, Emory Douglas, John Dowell, Louis Draper, David C. Driskell, Tony Eaton, Eugene Eda, Melvin Edwards, Ray Elkins, Ralph Ellison, Elton Fax, Elsa Honig Fine, Frederick Fisk, Babatunde Folayemi, Clebert Ford, Edmund Barry Gaither, Addison Gayle, Henri Ghent, Ray Gibson, Sam Gilliam, Robert H. Glauber, Lynda Goode-Bryant, Allan M. Gordon, Earl G. Graves, Carroll Greene, Abdul Hakimu ibn Halkalimat, David Hammons, David Henderson, Napoleon Henderson, M.J. Hewitt, Richard Hunt, Sam Hunter, Josine Ianco-Starrels, Nigel Jackson, Jay Jacobs, Joseph Jacobs, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Marie Johnson, Walter Jones, Lois Mailou Jones, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Cliff Joseph, Paul Keene, Martin Kilson, Wee Kim, April Kingsley, Hilton Kramer, Jacob Lawrence, Carolyn Lawrence, Don L. Lee, Hughie Lee-Smith, Samella Lewis, Tom Lloyd, Al Loving, Howard Mallory, Earl Roger Mandle, Jan van der Marck, Phillip Mason, James Mellow, Paul Mills, Evangeline J. Montgomery, Toni Morrison, Keith Morrison, Lawrence Neal, Cindy Nemser, Robert Newman, Lorraine O'Grady, Ademola Olugebefola, John Outterbridge, Joe Overstreet, Marion Perkins, Marcy S. Philips, Howardena Pindell, Mimi Poser, Helaine Posner, Noah Purifoy, Ishmael Reed, Gary Rickson, Clayton Riley, Faith Ringgold, Mark Rogovin, Barbara Rose, Joseph Ross, Bayard Rustin, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, Robert Sengstacke, David Shapiro, Jeanne Siegel, Thomas Sills, Lowery Stokes Sims, Steve Smith, Beuford Smith, Frank Smith, Val Spalding, Edward Spriggs, Nelson Stevens, James Stewart, Simone Swan, Edward K. Taylor, Alma Thomas, Ruth Waddy, William Walker, Francis and Val Gray Ward, Timothy Washington, Burton Wasserman, Diane Weathers, John Weber, JoAnn Whatley, Charles White, Selena Whitefeather, Jack Whitten, Roy Wilkins, William T. Williams, Gerald Williams, Randy Williams, William Wilson, Hale Woodruff and Cherilyn C. Wright.