a nonprofit devoted to interdisciplinary arts and humanities public education


The Beats and The Black Arts Movement


Through its focus on mid-20th-century poetry, The Beats and Black Arts Movement seminar series explores the complex social, aesthetic, and political relationships between two radical, socially engaged, and audacious artistic movements in mid-century America, and examines their legacies in shaping cultural production in our own moment in history.

In examining the Beat Movement, we will seek to pursue investigations of  the group's complex relationships to its literary precursors: English Romanticism, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, French Surrealism, Anglo-American Modernism and the Objectivist poets. We'll examine how the Beats experienced and expressed the pivotal issues of their own moment:  the battle for racial equality and sexual liberation, the pursuit of psychedelic experiment and the treatment of mental illness, the relationship of democracy and capitalism to communism and Cold War politics. Major figures explored will include Bob Kaufman, Joanne Kyger, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Jack Kerouac, Diane DiPrima, Gregory Corso, Hettie Jones, William Burroughs, Gary Synder, Joyce Johnson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Anne Waldman.

Another major concern of our seminars will be the friendships and relationships between writers, artists and intellectuals who were associated with both The Beats and The Black Art Movement. Our seminars will trace the changing political, poetic and aesthetic responses in the wake of the violent assassinations which rocked American politics in the 1960's.  We will seek to examine how relationships between friends and colleagues change as the Black Arts Movement emerges from the Civil Rights struggle into the Black Power Movement.  More generally, we'll revisit the relationships and interactions between The Black Arts Movement and the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers. Many senior Black Panthers were involved in the Black Arts Movement. How correct is it to view Black Arts as an extension of the Black Panther movement's vision for cultural revolution? This seminar also offers an opportunity to study the Black/White dialogue and Black/Jewish dialogue that existed within the two movements, and it traces a breakdown in dialogue arising from the rift that many Jewish-American artists felt from the Black Arts Movement. 

Major figures from the Black Arts Movement we seek to examine include  Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ed Bullins, Eldridge Ceaver, Jayne Cortez, Harold Cruse, Mari Evans, Hoyt Fuller, Nikki Giovanni, Lorraine Hansberry, Gil-Scott Heron, Maulana Ron Karenga, Etheridge Knight, Adrienne Kennedy, Haki R. Madhubuti, Larry Neal, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Quincy Troupe, and John Alfred Williams.

We are planning the first Beats and Black Arts Seminar Series to run for four to five years. We plan to hold approximately ten seminars per year, with each seminar lasting about two hours and forty-five minutes. Each seminar will feature a guest speaker presenting a talk of between 30 and 60 minutes. This will be followed by a question and answer period of about 15 to 20 minutes. After a brief break, the second half of each seminar will examine a selection of text that seminar participants will collectively analyze in a communal, collaborative close reading session.  All of TUPP's seminars are taped and will be made available to the general public, free of charge. Our goal is that over the course of years, our repository of lectures on and close readings of The Beats and The Black Arts Movement will form an important repository of material of interest both to scholars and the general reading public. 

Locations, dates, and times for the first series of The Beats and The Black Arts Movement seminars will be made available on this website in late 2021, along with speaker lists and seminar talk titles. TUPP seeks to make all video materials available with 90 days of recording, and links to that material will appear from this page at that time.