SUMMARY of ADDISON GAYLE JR’s “From the Black Aesthetics”


Around the 1950s and 1960s, the art of the black people became so noticeable in its beauty, that even the most bias observer of the period, would notice. At this point, the whites realized that they cannot judge nor elucidate the art by Negroes effectively, because it is a work of self, that is absent in the American historic society. The black aesthetics is a corrective: a means of helping black people out of the mainstream of Americanism and offering logical, reasoned arguments as to why he should not desire to join the ranks of Norman Mailer or a William Styron.

Some critics have made us to realize that only two elements separate the present-day black artist from his forerunner. These elements are ‘anger’ and ‘nationalism’. The utterance of anger has been the voice of the black men ever since they stepped on the American soil. In America, the anger was more intensive in the Dubois. In 1836, a some delegates representing the Negros at a ‘Negro National Congress’, deliberated on the inability to achieve equality with the whites in the existing laid institutions, therefore, there is the need to have separate schools and churches for Negros. This sentiments reaches dramatic form in the fiction of Martin Delaney, Blake, or the Huts of America (1859), Sutton Griggs, Imperium in Imperio (1899); and DuBois, Dark Princess (1928).

An element that is in the black art today, is the identification as an American, they believed in the American dream more than their white counterparts, thereby making them to wage war against the societal laws that has deprived them of the freedom they so much desired. So this preoccupied their wish to move from the south to the North; where the whites are said to be liberal.

An underlying premise of the black art was that a literal place existed that altered the definition of humanity for Blacks. When the North failed to fulfill its promise of being that place, the relationship of place to identity became one more dichotomy embedded in the language and activities of black American existence, one more dichotomy embodying the impossibility of assimilation. Black people had run away from white terrorism in Savanah in 1904 and Atlanta in 1906, only to experience white terrorism in Ohio in 1904, Illinois in 1908, and New York in 1935.

Another aspect of the war, is that the blacks as a result of this oppression often repress their desires and sublimate their frustrations in ways that enable them to accept the status quo and even adopt their oppressors’ values. And thus, the black artist of the past, worked with the white public in mind. And making the whites’ acceptance or rejection of his(black artist) work, a guideline for production of art. Thereby debating on what to say to the world without bringing censure upon himself.

The Black artist today has given up the futile practice of speaking to the whites but rather has turned to speaking to his black brothers. He is no longer concerned with converting the Northern Liberals, but instead point out to black people the extent of control exercised upon them by the American society, in the hope that a process of de-Americanization will occur in every black community in the nation. Since the idea of being Americans, would only turn blacks against blacks and yet still subjects of the whites.

To understand this incident and what must be done to correct it, is to understand the black aesthetics. The evaluation of black arts, is not based on the critical evaluative tools of the Europeans; since they lack the knowledge of the black aesthetics. The evaluation of art by a black poet, is based on how the art has made beautiful the life of a single black and not how beautiful the melody of such art is. Pauline Hopkins realized that art was “…of great value to any people as a preserver of manners and customs – religious, political, and social. It is a record of growth and development from generation to generation. No one will do this for us; we must ourselves develop the men and women who will faithfully portray the inmost thoughts and feelings of the Negro with all the fire and romance which lie dormant in our history…” this quote, got a more direct utterance by William Pickens twenty-two years later, that “It is not only simply that the white story teller will not do full justice to the humanity of the black race; he cannot.”

To be an American writer is to be an American, and, for black people, there should no longer be honour attached to either position.


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