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Building the Black Arts MovementHoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s$
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Jonathan Fenderson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042430

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042430.001.0001

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A Local Construction Site

A Local Construction Site

OBAC, Chicago, and the Black Aesthetic

(p.55) 2 A Local Construction Site
Building the Black Arts Movement

Jonathan Fenderson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter provides an institutional history of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), one of the most renowned African American artist collectives of the Black Arts movement. It recounts OBAC’s efforts to challenge Chicago’s established racial order and to reorient Black Chicago’s relationship to artistic production. It argues that OBAC pioneered several community-centered projects that served as hallmark modes of artistic practice within the movement while simultaneously helping to popularize the era’s burgeoning ideas. The group made Chicago an important epicenter of movement activity, attracting artists, activists, and intellectuals from around the world. At their peak, OBAC sparked a national intellectual debate over their creative philosophy of “a black aesthetic,” effectively polarizing arts discourse as it related to African Americans. Their growing popularity and heightened national profile generated a number of internal challenges, including intractable ideological and class contradictions, and tensions between individual professional aspirations and collective community engagement.

Keywords:   OBAC, Chicago, African American writers, literary theory, the black aesthetic, Black Studies, community engagement, activism, higher education, class

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