The Black Arts Movement (BAM) began in the 1960s and lasted through the 1970s. The movement was founded by Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) following the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965. It was also considered one of the most influential movements in black literature due to its ability to inspire African Americans to write. Overall, BAM inspired the creation of Black Publishing Companies, theaters, journals, magazines and institutions.
Read on to learn more about three pioneering black women of the Black Arts Movement:
1. Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde wrote the poetry collections From a Land Where Other People Live (1973) and The Black Unicorn (1978), as well as memoirs like A Burst of Light (1988). Lorde’s life changed dramatically in 1968. Her first volume of poetry, First Cities, was published, and, that same year. In addition to being a phenomenal poet, Lorde was a powerful essayist and writer. In terms of her nonfiction work, she is best remembered for The Cancer Journals (1980), in which she documents her own struggle with breast cancer. Audre Lorde died on November 17, 1992, on the island of St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
2. Bell Hooks
Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name Bell Hooks, is an author, feminist, and social activist. The name “bell hooks” is derived from that of her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. Most of Hooks’ work explores the connection of race, capitalism, and gender. Hooks has published over 30 books and numerous scholarly articles appeared in documentary films and participated in public lectures. She founded the Bell Hooks Institute at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.
3. Sonia Sanchez
Sonia Sanchez was born Wilsonia Benita Driver in 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama. While attending New York University, she studied poetry with Louise Bogan and formed a writer’s workshop in Greenwich village. During the early 1960s, she was an integrationist, supporting the philosophy of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). However, after considering the ideas of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, who believed blacks would never be truly accepted by whites in the United States, she focused more on her black heritage from a separatist point of view. She taught in the San Francisco area in 1965 where she was also a pioneer in developing black studies courses at San Francisco State University. Sanchez is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including, Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010) and Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (Beacon Press, 1999).