The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry

Howard Rambsy II
A closer look at the poets and publishers who made the Black Arts Movement such an enduring cultural enterprise


The outpouring of creative expression known as the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s spawned a burgeoning number of black-owned cultural outlets, including publishing houses, performance spaces, and galleries. Central to the movement were its poets, who in concert with editors, visual artists, critics, and fellow writers published a wide range of black verse and advanced new theories and critical approaches for understanding African American literary art. 

The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry offers a close examination of the literary culture in which BAM's poets (including Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Larry Neal, Haki Madhubuti, Carolyn Rodgers, and others) operated and of the small presses and literary anthologies that first published the movement's authors. The book also describes the role of the Black Arts Movement in reintroducing readers to poets such as Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Margaret Walker, and Phillis Wheatley.

Focusing on the material production of Black Arts poetry, the book combines genetic criticism with cultural history to shed new light on the period, its publishing culture, and the writing and editing practices of its participants. Howard Rambsy II demonstrates how significant circulation and format of black poetic texts—not simply their content—were to the formation of an artistic movement. The book goes on to examine other significant influences on the formation of Black Arts discourse, including such factors as an emerging nationalist ideology and figures such as John Coltrane and Malcolm X.

"Rambsy's book takes up in closer detail the central issues of the Black Arts Movement, and its approach will be a model for subsequent scholarship. Reverberations from the Black Arts era are still demonstrably at work in the literature of this moment, and this rereading of the BAM era brings with it a reconfiguration of our understandings of previous eras."
—Aldon Nielsen, Penn State University

"Rambsy's sharp analysis of the material production of Black Arts poetry, supported by an extraordinarily sensitive attention to significant historical and textual detail, greatly advances our knowledge of the Black Arts Movement."
—James Smethurst, University of Massachusetts Amherst

"The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry is the first serious study to concentrate on the creative and critical role of Black poets, their poetry, their publishers, and the cultural, economic, and political activity their work generated in the nation . . . essential reading for students of the Black Arts Movement and African American studies."
—Haki R. Madhubuti, Founder and Publisher of Third World Press

"As a hip, deeply versed young scholar, Rambsy applies verve to a model-building examination of BAM versifiers. Fellow scholars, librarians, poetry lovers, 'transmitters' of culture, spoken word-music collaborators, and BAM comrades, in particular, will find welcoming embraces in The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry."
—Eugene B. Redmond, author of Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry (A Critical History)

Howard Rambsy II is Associate Professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. 

Visit Howard Rambsy's website

Praise / Awards

  • "A significant contribution to the growing body of scholarship about the Black Arts Movement, Rambsy's book is a carefully observed, systematic account of the milieu out of which, and within which, this paradigm-altering movement occurred. ... [A]n indispensable source for information on this seminal moment in American culture."

News, Reviews, Interviews

Interview | Left of Black | 9/17/12

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 198pp.
  • 3 B&W Illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11733-8

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  • $54.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03568-7

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90101-2

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  • Audio Download
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-00398-3

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  • $9.99 U.S.



  • Black poetry, African American literature, Black Arts Movement, poetry, black cultural history, publishing, history, textual scholarship, Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Haki Madhubuti