Sunday, April 7, 2013

See Black Fire for the early writings of Marvin X and the Black Arts Movement literary figures

Book Description

April 5, 2007  1574780395  978-1574780390
The defining work of the Black Arts Movement, Black Fire is at once a rich anthology and an extraordinary source document. Nearly 200 selections, including poetry, essays, short stories, and plays, from over 75 cultural critics, writers, and political leaders, capture the social and cultural turmoil of the 1960s. In his new introduction, Amiri Baraka reflects nearly four decades later on both the movement and the book.

488 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 illus., appends., notes, bibl., index
John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture
ISBN  978-0-8078-2934-9
Published: May 2005

ISBN  978-0-8078-5598-0
Published: May 2005
Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s
James Edward Smethurst

Awards & Distinctions
2006 James A. Rawley Prize, Organization of American Historians
A 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Emerging from a matrix of Old Left, black nationalist, and bohemian ideologies and institutions, African American artists and intellectuals in the 1960s coalesced to form the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. In this comprehensive analysis, James Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.
Taking a regional approach, Smethurst examines local expressions of the nascent Black Arts Movement, a movement distinctive in its geographical reach and diversity, while always keeping the frame of the larger movement in view. The Black Arts Movement, he argues, fundamentally changed American attitudes about the relationship between popular culture and "high" art and dramatically transformed the landscape of public funding for the arts.

About the Author

James Edward Smethurst is associate professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is author of The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946 and coeditor of Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism, and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States.


"A richly insightful and informative account of the often occluded racial dynamics of early modernism."
--Journal of American Studies
"The most comprehensive work published to date on the Black Arts Movement, painstakingly detailing the movement's national thrust. . . . This book is a monumental achievement and will serve as the definitive text on the movement for some time to come."
--Journal of African American History
"Smethurst… has written a tour-de-force that will quickly become the definitive analysis of the sprawling and internally contradictory entity known as the Black Arts movement."
--Against the Current
"Mapping important connections and offering a cornucopia of information, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s is a truly valuable contribution to the study of American letters. Smethurst gets it right! His thorough research and astute analysis overcome two decades of deliberate critical misrepresentation to help us examine a tumultuous era when visionary leadership and nationwide grassroots participation created a dynamic, paradigm-changing cultural renaissance."--Lorenzo Thomas, University of Houston-Downtown
"A momentous and singular contribution to the study of literary ethnic nationalism in particular, and post-World War II cultural history in general. Anyone interested in United States culture and politics in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s will be drawn to The Black Arts Movement as a chronicle, survey, and fabulous reference."--Alan Wald, University of Michigan

Somethin' Proper

The Life and Times of a North American African Poet

Marvin X (Marvin E. Jackmon) [El Muhajir]. Somethin' Proper: The Life and Times of a North American African Poet. Castro Valley, CA: Black Bird P, 1998. 278 pp. $29.95.
Marvin X's autobiography Somethin' Proper is one of the most significant works to come out of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It tells the story of perhaps the most important African American Muslim poet to appear in the United States during the Civil Rights era. The book opens with an introduction by scholar Nathan Hare, a key figure in the Black Studies Movement of the period. Marvin X then takes center stage with an exploration of his life's story, juxtaposed with the rapidly changing events and movements of contemporary history: the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Arts 

Autobiography/ African American culture. In this autobiography, Marvin X, the first North American African Islamic poet to achieve international recognition for his poetry and plays tells the story, "of the black consciousness movement and the world of the troubled inner city" (from Nathan Hare's Introduction). His work has been compared to that of Franz Fanon and LeRoi Jones. "Somethin' Proper works: writers should tell our history, that's our job" -- Amiri Baraka. "Through the poetry of Marvin X, I became conscious of my own ethnicity" -- Janice Mirikitani. 278pp. Black Bird Press

Marvin X (b. 1944), poet, playwright, essayist, director, and lecturer. Marvin Ellis Jackmon was born on 29 May 1944 in Fowler, California. He attended high school in Fresno and received a BA and MA in English from San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University). The mid-1960s were formative years for Jackmon. He became involved in theater, founded his own press, published several plays and volumes of poetry, and became increasingly alienated because of racism and the Vietnam War. Under the influence of Elijah Muhammad, he became a Black Muslim and has published since then under the names El Muhajir and Marvin X. He has also used the name Nazzam al Fitnah Muhajir.

Marvin X and Ed Bullins founded the Black Arts/West Theatre in San Francisco in 1966, and several of his plays were staged during that period in San Francisco, Oakland, New York, and by local companies across the United States. His one-act play Flowers for the Trashman was staged in San Francisco in 1965 and was included in the anthology Black Fire (1968); a musical version, Take Care of Business, was produced in 1971. The play presents the confrontation between two cellmates in a jail—one a young African American college student, the other a middle-aged white man. Another one-act play, The Black Bird, a Black Muslim allegory in which a young man offers lessons in life awareness to two small girls, appeared in 1969 and was included in New Plays from the Black Theatre that year. Several other plays, including The Trial, Resurrection of the Dead, and In the Name of Love, have been successfully staged, and Marvin X has remained an important advocate of African American theater.

In 1967, Marvin X was convicted, during the Vietnam War, for refusing induction and fled to Canada; eventually he was arrested in Honduras, was returned to the United States, and was sentenced to five months in prison. In his statement on being sentenced—later reprinted in Black Scholar (1971) and also in Clyde Taylor's anthology,Vietnam and Black America (1973)—he argues that
Any judge, any jury, is guilty of insanity that would have the nerve to judge and convict and imprison a black man because he did not appear in a courtroom on a charge of refusing to commit crimes against humanity, crimes against his own brothers and sisters, the peace-loving people of Vietnam.

Marvin X founded El Kitab Sudan publishing house in 1967; several of his books of poetry and proverbs have been published there. Much of Marvin X's poetry is militant in its anger at American racism and injustice. For example, in “Did You Vote Nigger?” he uses rough dialect and directs his irony at African Americans who believe in the government but are actually its pawns. Many of the proverbs in The Son of Man (1969) express alienation from white America. However, many of Marvin X's proverbs and poems express more concern with what African Americans can do positively for themselves, without being paralyzed by hatred. He insists that the answer is to concentrate on establishing a racial identity and to “understand that art is celebration of Allah.” The poems in Fly to Allah, Black Man Listen (1969), and other volumes from his El Kitab Sudan press are characterized by their intensity and their message of racial unity under a religious banner.

Marvin X has remained active as a lecturer, teacher, theatrical producer, editor, and exponent of Islam. His work in advocating racial cohesion and religious dedication as an antidote to the legacy of racism he saw around him in the 1960s and 1970s made him an important voice of his generation.
  • Lorenzo Thomas, “Marvin X,” in DLBvol. 38Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, eds. Thadious Davis and Trudier Harris, 1985, pp. 177–184.
  • Bernard L. Peterson, Jr., “Marvin X,” in Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays, 1988, pp. 332–333. “El Muhajir,” in CAvol. 26, eds. Hal May and James G. Lesniak, 1989, pp. 132–133
Michael E. Greene

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment