In 1974, upon Huey Newton fleeing to Cuba, Newton appointed Elaine Brown as his replacement thus making her the first woman chairman of the Black Panther Party. Elaine said of the challenging experience:
“A woman in the Black Power movement was considered, at best, irrelevant. A woman asserting herself was a pariah. If a black woman assumed a role of leadership, she was said to be eroding black manhood, to be hindering the progress of the black race. She was an enemy of the black people…. I knew I had to muster something mighty to manage the Black Panther Party.”
41st & Central: Niggatown: Joining The Black Panther Party
I walked out of the bathroom like a virgin, wrapped in a towel… He did not remove the towel. Grabbing another one, he dried my back and neck and face. He was nude, thin legs and narrow waist, muscular torso and tight buttocks.
He took my hand as though he thought I might break, and led me to the bed. He whisked back the covers and bowed chivalrously, assisting me into the crispness of hotel sheets. We lay in the dark next to each other, neither speaking nor touching.”
“I know you’re exhausted,’ he whispered eventually. I just wanted to be near you, after dreaming about you for so long. May I hold you?”
As I snuggled into the strength of his arms… He began to rock me back and forth, so gently that tears fell from my eyes. He brushed them away with the tenderest kisses.
- Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power
I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.
—Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (via observando)
literature meme | two of two movements | the harlem renaissance
the harlem renaissance (c. 1918–37) was a blossoming of african american culture, particularly in the creative arts, and the most influential movement in african american literary history. embracing literary, musical, theatrical, and visual arts, participants sought to reconceptualize “the negro” apart from the white stereotypes that had influenced black peoples’ relationship to their heritage and to each other. they also sought to break free of victorian moral values and bourgeois shame about aspects of their lives that might, as seen by whites, reinforce racist beliefs. with much of the literature focusing on a realistic portrayal of black life, conservative black critics feared that the depiction of ghetto realism would impede the cause of racial equality. the intent of the movement, however, was not political but aesthetic. any benefit a burgeoning black contribution to literature might have in defraying racial prejudice was secondary to, as langston hughes put it, the “expression of our individual dark-skinned selves.”
the nucleus of the movement included jean toomer, langston hughes, rudolf fisher, wallace thurman, jessie redmon fauset, nella larsen, arna bontemps, countee cullen, and zora neale hurston. an older generation of writers and intellectuals—james weldon johnson, claude mckay, alain locke, and charles s. johnson—served as mentors.
the harlem renaissance influenced future generations of black writers, but it was largely ignored by the literary establishment after it waned in the 1930s. with the advent of the civil rights movement, it again acquired wider recognition. never dominated by a particular school of thought but rather characterized by intense debate, the movement laid the groundwork for all later african american literature (like that of gwendolyn brooks and robert hayden) and had an enormous impact on subsequent black literature and consciousness worldwide.
(clockwise from the top left: zora neale hurston, anne spencer, jean toomer, langston hughes, arna bontemps, and gwendolyn brooks)