COOL CLASSES: “The New Black Arts Movement: Expressive Culture after Nationalism”

This English course, which begins with Amiri Baraka and ends with Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” explores the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s as an essential link to 21st-century Black culture.

Course Title: “The New Black Arts Movement: Expressive Culture after Nationalism”

Taught By: Associate Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program Asali Solomon

Says Solomon:

The class is an introduction to the Black Arts Movement, the fusion of radical aesthetics and politics that defined African American artistic production in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a study of more contemporary literature and culture that is profoundly connected to the BAM. We begin with Amiri Baraka and end with Beyonce’s Lemonade. In contrast to say, the Harlem Renaissance or the work of Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison, BAM tends to reach far fewer contemporary readers, and yet it is an essential link to spoken word, hip-hop and the more politically strident sensibility of Black popular culture in the early 21st century. As the course is called “The New Black Arts Movement,” it is also very much about what has changed in Black art that positions itself as radical, and a lot has changed. I love exposing students to the bracing, provocative, and ambitious work of the earlier era that is both angry and optimistic, and have them think about how much more intersectional the work has become. I also hope that students develop sophisticated writing and analysis skills while reading poetry, novels, theory, listening to hip-hop, and watching video. 

I created the class because BAM and Black cultural nationalism was an essential part of the education that I received outside of my 24 years (count ’em) of formal education, and yet it is a crucial context for understanding art in the era of Black Lives Matter. 

The last time I taught the class, in early 2020, we took an amazing field trip to The Colored Girls Museum in Germantown, which is an incredible, one-of-a kind institution. While I put field tripping on hold for the pandemic, I hope the next time I teach this class to [be able to] venture there again. [This class is unique in that it] is probably the only one in the department that offers extra credit for memorizing and performing a Kendrick Lamar song. But I can’t say that for sure!

Learn more about other classes offered by the Department of English.

Cool Classes

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