The Black Aesthetic

What is the Black Aesthetic in literature?

The 1960s ushered in a period that some called the Black Aesthetic, which is used to define African-American literary history. It embraces recurring elements in African-American culture, whether in literature, art, poetry, drama, or music. It may range from violent rhetoric to black self-discovery. Some black aestheticians followed W.E.B. Du Bois’ “double consciousness,” or always seeing oneself as an American and as a black person. The Black Aesthetic covers the works of writers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson—some of them precursors of the Harlem Renaissance—are among the leading early writers. Those of the twentieth century, particularly during the Harlem Renaissance period, include Langston Hughes, Alain Leroy Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright. Later writers of the 1950s and 1960s are represented by such luminaries as Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Lorraine Hansberry, Ishmael Reed, and Haki Madhubuti. The poets of this time included Sonia Sanchez, Mari Evans, and June Jordan. Some writers of this era also produced literature during other eras, including the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement.


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