Education, Arts, and Aesthetics of the Black Power Movement

The Black Power movement (1966-1976) sought to create a new revolutionary black consciousness.
It fostered a new aesthetics, declared that black was beautiful, saw art as an integral part of the revolution and promoted education as a vehicle for social and political transformation. 
Alternative schools, study groups, graphic arts, newspapers, poetry, music and theater helped shape and spread the Black Power message in all its diversity.
Wall of respect, Chicago.
Education for Liberation.
Panther schools were designed to sharpen the political consciousness of children. Chicano, Native American, and Puerto-Rican groups followed the Black Panther model and established their own alternative schools.

Inspired by the Black Power movement, communities developed new educational models in small institutions that played a key role in the intellectual and cultural development of young children.

Malcolm X College, Chicago.

Malcolm X Liberation University opened in Durham, North Carolina in October 1969 and moved to Greensboro in 1970. The objective of its founder, Howard Fuller, was “to provide a framework within which black education can become relevant to the needs of the black community and the struggle for black liberation.” 
Newspapers and other publications were used to educate and politicize readers.  
Emory Douglas, minister of culture of the Black Panther Party (BPP) working on the party’s newspaper, Black Panther. Members were asked to read, discuss and evaluate the Party’s work as presented in the paper.

Rising Up Angry (RUA), the newspaper of the white progressive organization Rising Up Angry covered the struggles of various groups regardless of race or class.

An activist selling RUA walks past a poster by Emory Douglas, minister of culture of the Black Panther Party.

Art for Revolution.
Visitors to the Afro-American Center set up by the Black Panther Party in Algiers view and buy posters by BBP minister of culture Emory Douglas.
 “The Black Arts Movement is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept”--Larry Neal
The Black Arts Movement (BAM) was created by radical black writers, poets, musicians, visual artists, dancers, playwrights, actors, and cultural workers. Like the Black Power militants, they saw culture as a central element of political liberation and self-determination. Poet, playwright, fiction writer, and critic Sonia Sanchez, is seen here with Republic of New Afrika activist Queen Mother Moore.

Poet and playwright Amiri Baraka was a key figure in both the BAM and Black Power politics.

Wall of Respect
Twenty artists affiliated with the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) created the Wall of Respect in 1967 on the South Side of Chicago.

W. E. B. Du Bois, Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, and Amiri Baraka were some of the people honored on the Wall, which was destroyed by fire in 1971.

Leading figures of the BAM contributed articles to The Drama Review special issue on black theater. The flyer on the cover announced a benefit for the Black Panther Party.

Chicago’s Affro-Arts Theater featured plays, dance, and music and was also a meeting place for Black Power activists. The theater’s Free Black Community Cultural College offered various classes.

Askia Muhammad Touré, a leading poet, is often considered the most influential poet-professor in the BAM.

In 1966, Stokely Carmichael asserted that black people “have to stop being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, a thick lip, and nappy hair is us and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it or not. We are not going to fry our hair anymore.” 
Left: Kathleen Cleaver, communications secretary of the BPP.

Some Young Lords, including leaders, adopted the Afro that showed their African ancestry.

Following the Black Panthers’ lead, urban militants’ attire consisted of sunglasses, black leather jackets, berets, and Afros.

The Black Panther Party was critical of cultural nationalism and its African-inspired clothes; but this Panther mixed the Panthers uniform with an “African” necklace.

Stokely Carmichael wearing the Panthers' black leather jacket. As a Pan-Africanist, he also donned a dashiki.

Africa became a source of inspiration. Chokwe Lumumba and his wife Anasa of the Republic of New Afrika.

The beret was an important symbol of militancy and political consciousness. Berets were first adopted by the Black Panthers in 1966. Latino, white, Native and Asian American activists donned berets too.   
Brown Berets.

The Black Power movement's valorization of blackness and black aesthetics reflected a new consciousness of self-love and racial pride that continues to shape the present.

Credits: Story

Curator
Sylviane A. Diouf, PhD
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

Photographers
Bill Boyarsky
Darryl Cowherd
Risasi Zachariah Dais
Detroit News
Bob Fitch
Carlos Flores
Ilka Hartmann
Stephen Shames
Neil Kenlock
Margaret Randall
Rising Up Angry Staff Photographers
Robert Wade

In each instance, we have tried to make sure that we have secured all necessary rights. If you believe that we have made a mistake, please contact us so that we can correct the oversight.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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