“Most people think that the Black Arts Movement was simply about aggression,” said Dr. Carmen Phelps, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of English. “But it wasn’t a movement about aggression. This was a movement about empowerment.”
Phelps began her research on the topic in graduate school. While pursuing her PhD, she focused her dissertation on the ideas, stories and narratives of women of African descent, specifically those involved in the Black Arts Movement, a period of artistic and literary development among black Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s.
She said that through various testimonials from people during the movement, her mission became clear: to provoke a new way of thinking about how so-called “radicals” can be construed as “passionate.”
For Phelps, this project was about more than simply publishing a book; this was a service-oriented mission meant to encourage others.
“I see literary studies as service-oriented, in that it can be critical resources for examining the politics of exclusion in academia as well as mainstream culture,” Phelps said. “And because of my interest of advancing the yet-to-be-realized goals of an otherwise culturally inclusive humanities-inspired curricula, I see my work as a scholar and instructor as service-oriented, and as that which is influenced and informed by my investment in social justice ideals.”
Visionary Women Writers of Chicago’s Black Arts Movement is published by University Press of Mississippi.