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RCAH 380, Spring 2016, Dr Lynn Scott. Mid-20th Century African American Literature: Primary Sources in Special Collections


Special Collections has a wealth of material on mid-20th century African American literature, and the social movements and activism of the period. Here are some highlights and suggested titles.

Black Arts movement - Background

The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (2013) has a brief summary of the Black Arts Movement.

The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2013) has a longer introduction.

Larry Neal's essay "The Black Arts Movement" (published in Drama Review in 1968) was one of the first to recognize the new direction in Black creative work.

Black Arts movement: Broadside Press

The Broadside Press was founded in Detroit in 1965 by Dudley Randall. It was instrumental in bringing many Black poets to national attention.

Our holdings

We have about 100 items issued by the press, many of which are actual broadsides. (This term means poetry or prose printed on a single sheet, so it can be framed or posted.)

How to find

Search the MSU library catalog.

  • Limit to Special Collections.
  • Keyword search "broadside press" (use quotation marks to get the phrase instead of the separate words)

Black Arts Movement: Third World Press

The Third World Press was founded in Chicago in 1967 by Haki R. Madhubuti, Carolyn Rodgers, and Johari Amini. It is now the largest Black-owned publisher in the U.S.

Our holdings

The majority of our holdings are in Main, with about 25 early titles in Special Collections.

How to find

Search the MSU library catalog.

Keyword search "third world press" (use quotation marks to get the phrase instead of the separate words)

Black arts movement: other publications

In addition to strong holdings of the Broadside Press and Third World Press (described above), we have scattered holdings of several other publications of the Black Arts movement.

History texts by African American authors

How did African Americans understand their history during your period of study?

1928 - Negro Makers of History, by Carter G. Woodson (Washington DC: Associated Publishers)

1933 - The Negro in America, by Alain Locke (Chicago: American Library Association)

1938 - The Negro American Series (four volumes) by Emma E. Akin (Oklahoma City: Harlow)

1943 - The Negro, Too, in American History, by Merl R. Eppse (Nashville: National Publication Co.)

1956 - A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, by Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer (New York: Crown)

1959 - The Story of the Negro Retold, by Carter G. Woodson and Charles H. Wesley (Washington: Associate Publishers)

1969 - Afro Americans, Then and Now, by Jane Hurley and Doris McGee Haynes. (Westchester, IL: Benefic Press)

1971 - The Struggle for Freedom and Rights: Basic Facts about the Negro in American History (o be used in connection with classroom texts for grade 8). Detroit Board of Education.

MSU 1970s Black Student Newspapers

1971-1975 - The Grapevine Journal

1976-1978 - People's Choice


PLUS: The University Archives & Historical Collections have a Grapevine Journal Archive, which includes issues of the paper plus extensive office files.

Emory Douglas and the Black Panthers

Cover image for Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory DouglasEmory Douglas was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panthers from 1967 to the 1980s, and a talented artist.

Many of the back-page illustrations of the Black Panther newspaper were by Douglas. These could be detached and used as posters.

Rizzoli published Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas in 2007.

Black Power movement - Background

The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2013) provides background on the Black Power Movement.

The Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to the Present (2009) has an introductory article on the Black Power Movement.

Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism

The Black Power movement emerged in the later years of the Civil Rights movement. Black Power encompassed diverse visions and goals, including:

Pan-Africanism and solidarity between African countries and African Americans:

Exploration of common goals between Black Nationalism and Socialist and Communist organizations:

Interest in Afro-centric culture, including creation of the Kwanzaa holiday:

Black nationalism and the establishment of a separate nation for African Americans within the territory of the United States:

Black Power Movement periodicals

We have selected issues of several periodicals associated with the Black Power movement:

Longer runs of these periodicals are available online or in the Main Library collection.

Black Feminist Movement

Cover of Our Women Keep Our Skies From Falling

Selected key documents in the Black Feminist movement:

African Americans and World War II

African American soldiers returning from the Second World War were an important catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. They risked their lives in combat while experiencing discrimination within the armed forces.

After the war, they continued to face the same discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and access to voting rights as before their service.

Brother Jim Crow... James Rorty. Post War World Council, 1943.

Democracy's Negroes: A Book of Facts Concerning the Activities of Negroes in World War II. Arthur Furr. House of Edinboro, 1947.

The Harlem Hellfighters [graphic novel]. Max Brooks and Canaan White. Broadway Books, 2014.

Jim Crow in National Defense. National Negro Congress, 1941.

Jim Crow in Uniform. Claudia Jones. New Age Publishers, 1940.

Leadership and the Negro Soldier. United States Army, 1944.

The Negro and the U.S. Army. Eugene Varlin. Socialist Workers Party, 1941.

A Negro Looks at War. John Henry Williams. Workers Library Publishers, 1940.

Negro People Will Defend America. National Negro Congress, 1941.

Negro Workers After the War. National Negro Congress, 1945.

Time for Action: World War II Through the Eyes of an African-American Cartoonist. Robin Mazyck. (M.A. thesis, Michigan State University) 1998.

United States Army Scottsboro Case. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1943.

War's Greatest Scandal! The Story of Jim Crow in Uniform. Dwight Macdonald. March on Washington Movement, 1943.

Where is the Justice? Oliver W. Harrington. W.O. Evans, 1991 [reprint of speech given in 1946]

African Americans and the Vietnam War

Roughly 25 years after World War II, African American soldiers were among those serving in the Vietnam War. How had the Civil Rights movement and nascent Black Power movement changed attitudes?

Blacks in the Military: The Myth of Equal Opportunity. Center for National Security Studies, 197-?

Black Marines Against the Brass. Radical Education Project, 197-?

The Black Man's Stake in Vietnam. Eldridge Cleaver. Black Panther Party [?], 197-?

Brothers, Black Soldiers in the Nam. Stanley Goff et al. Berkley Books, 1982.

Kangaroo Court-Martial: George Daniels and William Harvey, Two Black Marines Who Got 6 and 10 Years for Opposing the Vietnam War. Committee for G.I. Rights, 1969.

Uncle Sam Wants YOU, Nigger. Harlem Progressive Labor Club, 196-?

War, Racism, the Movement: As We See It. Jarvis Tyner. W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs of America, 1968.

A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam. Vietnam Generation, 1989.

Beauty culture

Book cover for Accent African

The period from 1940-1980 saw dramatic changes in how many African Americans dressed and styled their hair, reflecting the changing Black identity.

African American cookbooks

Book cover Sylvia's Soul Food

Soul food gained great popularity in the 1960s. Many soulfood cookbooks include commentary by the authors about their interest and appreciation of their African heritage.

Search the MSU library catalog.

  • Limit to Special Collections.
  • Keyword search african american cooking.
  • Sort your results by date for the time period you want to explore.

(Note that your results will include a few recent reprints of older works.)

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