Month: February 2015

Black History Month: Celebration of the Black Arts Movement

Calling all black people

Calling all black people, man woman child

Wherever you are, calling you, urgent, come in

Black people, come in, wherever you are, urgent, calling you, calling all black people

Calling all black people, come in, black people, come on in.

– SOS, Amiri Baraka

As we reflect upon African-American history and culture during Black History Month, we turn our attention this year to the Black Arts Movement (BAM). The “sister” or aesthetic counterpart of the Black Power Movement, BAM prioritized the need for personal and social transformation of their voices through political, cultural and artistic expression.  Fueled by the explicit critiques of Western inequality made by Malcolm X and John Coltrane’s dismantling of Western music, artists and activists came forth to create politically engaged work that rejected traditional endeavors and explored the African-American experience.

During the 1960s and 70s, BAM’s widespread influence served as a powerful force in supporting the Black Power and Black Liberation Movements.  Though broad in scope, the basic credo of BAM was 1) to create a true “Afro American Art,” 2) to create a mass art, and 3) to create a revolutionary art. As writer and influential leader in the movement Amiri Baraka described, “it was clear there was a torrent of inspiration that lifted the Black artist communities across the country.” Formally beginning with the creation of the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) in New York City, artists and intellectuals met to teach and present their work.  While the theater lasted for only a year, similar organizations and theatres formed across the country in a revolutionary fashion, all calling for a cultural nationalism. This new form of Black empowerment graced the stage in forms of dance troupes and performance art; it called out for writers and spurred the growth of magazine and journal publications such as Ebony and Jet; it thrived on college campuses among Black intellectuals. This was a revolutionary display of expression that united the consciousness of African-Americans, recognizing and celebrating Black voices.

Because of its grassroots outreach to a massive audience, many scholars regard the legacy of BAM to be one of the most influential arts movements in the country’s history. It dramatically altered public funding for arts programs, challenged boundaries of “high art” and pop culture, and served as a catalyst for similar movements in Asian-American and Native American communities. And as BAM is crucial to understanding modern African-American and American literary history, many works by today’s artists and performers – including Toni Morrison, Samuel L. Jackson, and August Wilson – are influenced by the ideas of BAM.

9781625340306SOS – Calling All Black People: a Black Arts Movement Reader, edited by UMass professors John H. Bracey, Jr. and James Smethurst and poet/professor emeritus of Temple University Sonia Sanchez, is a collection of key writings from the Black Arts Movement. With over fifty contributors in five genres, this anthology includes works of fiction, poetry, and drama in addition to critical writings on issues of politics, aesthetics, and gender. Topics range from the legacy of Malcolm X and the impact of John Coltrane’s jazz to the tenets of the Black Panther Party and the music of Motown. Essence Magazine’s Patrick Henry Bass called it a “tour-de-force collection of the greatest writers and thinkers . . . during one of the most electrifying periods in American arts and letters.” For more information on the book, please visit our website.

In March, UMass Press will be hosting two events related to the publication of SOS – Calling All Black People:

March 2, 2015: Presentation at the Augusta Savage Gallery

March 30, 2015: Reading by the editors at 4 P.M., Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Building


Emily Esten is an editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

2015 NCPH Book Awards

All of us at UMass Press would like to congratulate authors Andrea Burns and Susan Reynolds Williams on their respective awards from the National Council of Public History (NCPH), as announced last month.

9781625340344From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement by Andrea Burns is the winner of the 2015 National Council of Public History Book Award. The NCPH Book Award recognizes outstanding scholarship that addresses the theory and/or practice of or is the product of public history work. Published by UMass Press in October 2013, this book focuses on the founding of four groundbreaking museums: the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago (1961); the International Afro-American Museum in Detroit (1965); the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in Washington, D.C. (1967); and the African American Museum of Philadelphia (1976). Burns focuses on the ties of these museums to the Black Power Movement and the efforts to bring African American history and culture into the museum environment.  For more information about this title, click here.

9781558499874Alice Morse Earle and the Domestic History of Early America
by Susan Reynolds Williams was recognized with an honorable mention. Published by UMass Press in January 2013, this biography of Alice Morse Earle, a prolific and influential Progressive Era scholar of American history, provides us with new insights into Earle’s process and her significance to popular history. For more information about Alice Morse Earle, check out our website.

You can celebrate with UMass Press at NCPH Annual Meeting Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, from April 15 –18.

New Books: February 2015

Newest releases for our design and literature lists at UMass Press

9781625341228Isaiah Rogers by James F. O’Gorman: When architect Isaiah Rogers died in 1869, the Cincinnati Daily Times noted that “in his profession he was, perhaps, better known than any other person in this country.” Yet until now there has been no study that fully examines his remarkable, influential, and instructive career. Rogers designed buildings from Maine to Georgia and from Boston to Chicago to New Orleans, supervising their construction while traveling widely to procure materials and workmen for the job. He finished his career as Architect of the Treasury Department during the Civil War. In this richly illustrated volume, James F. O’Gorman offers a deft portrait of an energetic practitioner at a key time in architectural history, the period before the founding of the American Institute of Architects in 1857.

“This is a substantial book by a major scholar, and it is original, splendidly written and interpreted, and filled with the kind of rich specific detail that will make it a valuable reference to which historians will turn again and again. It is a significant contribution to the scholarship of American culture.” – Michael L. Lewis, author of American Art & Architecture

For more books on architecture, click here.


9781625341129A Kiss from Thermopylae by James R. Guthrie: Born into a family of attorneys, Dickinson absorbed law at home. She employed legal terms and concepts regularly in her writings, and her metaphors grounded in law derive much of their expressive power from a comparatively sophisticated lay knowledge of the various legal and political issues that were roiling nineteenth-century America. This book reveals a new dimension of Dickinson’s writing and thinking, indicating that she was familiar with the legal community’s idiomatic language, actively engaged with contemporary political and ethical questions, and skilled at deploying a poetic register ranging from high romanticism to low humor.

A Kiss from Thermopylae established beyond doubt the importance of legal reasoning to Dickinson’s poetry, and it also contributes importantly to the value of the ‘law and literature’ subdiscipline.” – Gary Stonum, author of The Dickinson Sublime

For more books about the life and works of Emily Dickinson, click here.


9781625341143Transatlantic Romanticism by Andrew Hemingway and Alan Wallach: That the Romantic movement was an international phenomenon is a commonplace, yet to date, historical study of the movement has tended to focus primarily on its national manifestations. This volume offers a new perspective. In thirteen chapters devoted to artists and writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, leading scholars of the period examine the international exchanges that were crucial for the rise of Romanticism in England and the United States.

“A cogent and stimulating series of reflections on Anglo-American art and literature associated with the broad cultural category of Romanticism.” – Brian Lukacher, author of Joseph Gandy: Architectural Visionary in Georgian England

For more books of literary criticism, click here.