Towards a Black Book Aesthetic

Written by
Kinohi Nishikawa
Oct. 26, 2020

In the sixth session of our Fall 2020 workshop, Kinohi Nishikawa (Princeton) presents "Towards a Black Book Aesthetic." Kinohi writes: Over the past 15 years, the Black Arts movement has undergone a much-needed critical reassessment in literary and cultural history. Once typed as a propaganda arm of the Black Power movement, Black Arts today is recognized as a diverse coalition of collectives that broke from mainstream institutions in order to reframe cultural production around Black people themselves. Yet even this revised understanding of the movement has lacked a bibliography that can shed light on how Black Arts collectives went about building alternative institutions. In presenting new bibliographic findings, this paper suggests book design played a vital, if still overlooked, role in manifesting the movement’s commitment to black readers. For poets and publishers alike, design held the key to situating literature on a continuum of arts-making and to tracking the ephemerality and dynamism of a movement that was constantly in flux.

[Originally published on October 21, 2020 via the University of Pennsylvania's Workshop in the History of Material Texts]