1 October 2013
Larry Neal’s “Black Arts Movements” and Addison Gayle’s “The Black Aesthetic” are two identical mission statements for the black audience: set yourself apart from the white culture and give your culture the recognition it deserves. The two pieces are similar in ideas and purposes. The black communities were tired of always adapting to the ways of the white culture because it was the “right” way to act. The black community wanted to define their own culture and these pieces were words of encouragement for blacks to step outside the white ways of thinking and acting and step into an acceptance of their own urbanity. Once the differences were accepted that’s when you start seeing the different relationships between whites and blacks. These written pieces were significant changes in thoughts and actions at this time, and they weren’t useless. The blacks were really hoping to set themselves apart from the rest, to have people recognize they were different from the white oppressive mind set, and it worked.
Larry Neal’s “The Black Arts Movement”, written in 1968, speaks directly to the needs and ambitions of Black America at the time. The main goal in “The Black Arts Movement” is to emphasize the necessity for black culture to define their world in their own terms. Larry Neal asks the question in his piece, “…whose vision of the world is more meaningful, ours or the white oppressors?” (Neal page 2040). He is asking his audience to move away from a white oppressor vision of the world and create their own vision of the world: a vision that has their own beliefs, thoughts, and ideas; a vision that stands out from the white patterns that have consisted years prior. The Black artists’ primary duty is to express the needs of the Black people. Neal explains this idea by saying, “…main thrust of his new breed of contemporary writers to confront the contradictions arising out of the Black man’s experience in the raciest West” (Neal page 2039). In other words, the goals of these new artists is to use a concept of “protest literature” (page 2040) and direct this new literature directly towards black people to summon hope and “[awaken] Black people to the meaning of their lives” (Neal page 2042). The Black community had been living in an oppressive society for years prior to this new movement. Neal believed The Black Aesthetic was the destruction of white ideas, and the destruction of white ways of looking at their world. Addison Gayle Jr. was another of these contemporary artists who encouraged a new way of life to the black community in his piece, “The Black Aesthetic”.
The Black Aesthetic movement was the practice that helped those seeking to navigate and understand the experiences of black peoples. Gayle explains the Black Aesthetic movement: “The question for the black critic today is not how beautiful is a melody, a play, a poem, a novel, but how much more beautiful has the poem…made the life of a single black man?...The Black Aesthetic, then, as conceived by this writer…is a means of helping black people out of the polluted mainstream of Americanism…” (Gayle 1916).
This is a significant quote because Gayle, and many of the Black Aesthetic artists at the time, really believe that these works of art are not for the critics’ entertainment. Instead they are gritty stories of these Black Peoples’ experiences and they are intended to free the Black Man of an oppressive white America. They are to encourage these black men and women to stop conforming to the white culture and instead embrace their own. The black aesthetic period is so significant because it was a time where the artists made a significant shift in the opinions of the white culture towards the black culture, and even more, it gave a chance to the Black community to find their voice in the madness and be able to stand out amongst the white, oppressive view points of the society they were living...
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