Mary Helen Washington recovers the vital role of 1950s leftist politics in the works and lives of modern African American writers and artists. While most histories of McCarthyism focus on the devastation of the blacklist and the intersection of leftist politics and American culture, few include the activities of radical writers and artists from the Black Popular Front. Washington's work incorporates these black intellectuals back into our understanding of mid-twentieth-century African American literature and art and expands our understanding of the creative ferment energizing all of America during this period.
Mary Helen Washington reads four representative writersLloyd Brown, Frank London Brown, Alice Childress, and Gwendolyn Brooksand surveys the work of the visual artist Charles White. She traces resonances of leftist ideas and activism in their artistic achievements and follows their balanced critique of the mainstream liberal and conservative political and literary spheres. Her study recounts the targeting of African American as well as white writers during the McCarthy era, reconstructs the events of the 1959 Black Writers' Conference in New York, and argues for the ongoing influence of the Black Popular Front decades after it folded. Defining the contours of a distinctly black modernism and its far-ranging radicalization of American politics and culture, Washington fundamentally reorients scholarship on African American and Cold War literature and life.
|Publisher:||Columbia University Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Mary Helen Washington is a professor in the English Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has been a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University and has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is the editor of Black-Eyed Susans: Classic Stories by Black Women Writers; Midnight Birds: Stories of Contemporary Black Women Writers; Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women; and Memory of Kin: Stories of Family by Black Writers.
Columbia University Press
Table of Contents
List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsList of AbbreviationsIntroduction1. Lloyd Brown: Black Fire in the Cold War2. Charles White: "Robeson with a Brush and Pencil"3. Alice Childress: Black, Red, and Feminist4. When Gwendolyn Brooks Wore Red5. Frank London Brown: The End of the Black Cultural Front and the Turn Toward Civil Rights6. 1959: Spycraft and the Black Literary LeftEpilogue: The Example of Julian MayfieldNotesWorks CitedIndex
What People are Saying About This
The Cold War erased red politics from our reading of midcentury black art. Washington brings it back with eloquence and dense documentation. If you believe in freedom, read this book.
Alice Childress, Lloyd Brown, Julian Mayfield, Frank London Brown... these ought to be household names in American letters and politics, as well as African American studies. In a brilliant work of historical reconstruction and (re)vision, Washington not only rescues these critical artists/intellectuals artist-intellectuals from obscurity and restores them to history but also rewrites that historyrecasting the 1950s as a period of black radical critique, revolutionary fervor, political noncompliance, state repression and surveillance, and a flowering of black artistic imagination.'
A groundbreaking and eye-opening study. In Washington's sure hands, biography, politics, and cultural history combine to open new intellectual vistas.