The Soul of a Nation Reader: Writings by and about Black American Artists, 1960–1980
A comprehensive compendium of artists and writers confronting questions of Black identity, activism and social responsibility in the age of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, based on the landmark traveling exhibition
What is “Black art”? This question was posed and answered time and time again between 1960 and 1980 by artists, curators and critics deeply affected by this turbulent period of radical social and political upheaval in America. Rather than answering in one way, they argued for radically different ideas of what “Black art” meant.
Across newspapers and magazines, catalogs, pamphlets, interviews, public talks and panel discussions, a lively debate emerged between artists and others to address profound questions of how Black artists should or should not deal with politics, about what audiences they should address and inspire, where they should try to exhibit, how their work should be curated, and whether there was or was not such a category as “Black art” in the first place.
Conceived as a reader connected to the landmark exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which shone a light on the vital contributions made by Black artists over two decades, this anthology collects over 200 texts from the artists, critics, curators and others who sought to shape and define the art of their time.
Exhaustively researched and edited by exhibition curator Mark Godfrey, who provides the substantial introduction, and Allie Biswas, included are rare and out-of-print texts from artists and writers, as well as texts published for the first time ever.
Contributors include: Lawrence Alloway, Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Tomie Arai, Ralph Arnold, Dore Ashton, Malcolm Bailey, Amiri Baraka, Romare Bearden, Fred Beauford, Cleveland Bellow, LeGrace G. Benson, Dawoud Bey, Camille Billops, Gloria Bohanon, Claude Booker, Frank Bowling, David Bradford, Peter Bradley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kay Brown, Milton Brown, Vivian Browne, Linda Goode Bryant, Margaret G. Burroughs, Debbie Butterfield, Steve Cannon, Yvonne Parks Catchings, Elizabeth Catlett, Dana Chandler, Claudia Chapline, Charles Childs, Edward Clark, A.D. Coleman, Dan Concholar, John Coplans, Hugh M. Davies, Douglas Davis, Bing Davis, Alonzo Davis, Dale Davis, Melvin Dixon, Jeff Donaldson, Robert Doty, Emory Douglas, John Dowell, Louis Draper, David C. Driskell, Tony Eaton, Eugene Eda, Melvin Edwards, Ray Elkins, Ralph Ellison, Marion Epting, Elton Fax, Elsa Honig Fine, Frederick Fiske, Babatunde Folayemi, Clebert Ford, Edmund Barry Gaither, Addison Gayle, Henri Ghent, Ray Gibson, Sam Gilliam, Robert H. Glauber, Lynda Goode-Bryant, Allan M. Gordon, Earl G. Graves, Carroll Greene, Abdul Alkalimat, David Hammons, David Henderson, Napoleon Henderson, M.J. Hewitt, Richard Hunt, Sam Hunter, Josine Ianco-Starrels, Nigel Jackson, Jay Jacobs, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Marie Johnson, Walter Jones, Lois Mailou Jones, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Cliff Joseph, Paul Keene, Martin Kilson, Wee Kim, April Kingsley, Hilton Kramer, Jacob Lawrence, Carolyn Lawrence, Don L. Lee, Hughie Lee-Smith, Samella Lewis, Tom Lloyd, Al Loving, Howard Mallory, Earl Roger Mandle, Jan van der Marck, Phillip Mason, James Mellow, Paul Mills, Evangeline J. Montgomery, Toni Morrison, Keith Morrison, Larry Neal, Cindy Nemser, Senga Nengudi, Robert Newman, Lorraine O'Grady, Ademola Olugebefola, John Outterbridge, Joe Overstreet, Marion Perkins, Marcy S. Philips, Howardena Pindell, Mimi Poser, Helaine Posner, Noah Purifoy, Ishmael Reed, Gary Rickson, Clayton Riley, Faith Ringgold, Mark Rogovin, Barbara Rose, Victoria Rosenwald, Joseph Ross, Bayard Rustin, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, Robert Sengstacke, Jeanne Siegel, Lowery Stokes Sims, Steve Smith, Beuford Smith, Frank Smith, Val Spaulding, Edward Spriggs, Nelson Stevens, James Stewart, Edward K. Taylor, Alma Thomas, Ruth Waddy, William Walker, Francis and Val Gray Ward, Timothy Washington, Burton Wasserman, Diane Weathers, John Weber, JoAnn Whatley, Charles White, Jack Whitten, Roy Wilkins, William T. Williams, Gerald Williams, Randy Williams, William Wilson, Hale Woodruff and Cherilyn C. Wright.
Mark Godfrey is a senior curator at Tate Modern, London, and a professor at Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Together with Zoe Whitley, he curated Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which traveled from the Tate to the Brooklyn Museum, MFA Houston, the Broad and the de Young.
Allie Biswas is a writer and editor based in London and New York whose work appears often in the Brooklyn Rail, Frieze, Surface and AnOther.