A third way to change: Violence against whites in African American novels from the 1970s
This study explores the influence of the Black Arts movement (1965-1975) in four novels, Samuel R. Delany's The Tides of Lust, Alice Walker's Meridian, David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident, and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. The novels respond to four major characteristics of the movement: a willingness to advocate for violent responses to racism, the importance of art as a catalyst for these responses, the importance of genres other than fiction for black literary expression, and a consistently sexist and homophobic outlook. The novels argue that the Black Arts movement deserves study despite its flaws. Viewing the novels through a movement lens not only recognizes the texts' affirmation of their immediate literary predecessors, but also enriches our understanding of their activist nature. The novels acknowledge the Black Arts movement's importance for constructing a visible African American literary community, but argue that the movement's Black Power philosophies mimic too many of white racism's facets to lead to liberation. Instead, the novels argue for an approach to racial justice that recognizes racism did not end with the legal successes of the Civil Rights movement, and that calls for whites both to recognize the debilitating effects of racism on blacks and to prove why African Americans should not embrace terrorism as a method of social change. The novels argue that both blacks and whites must take an active role in ending racism—whites must do more than pay lip service to the fight against racism, and blacks must be willing to enter into friendships with whites. Although the four novels do not constitute a movement of their own in response to the Black Arts because their challenges to it come in rather different forms, they all emphasize the need for personal relationships between blacks and whites as an essential step toward racial justice.
0325: Black studies
0591: American literature
0733: Gender studies