Chicago BAM: The Black Arts Movement in Chicago,
Then and Now

A Special Issue of Chicago Review

Publication Date: Fall 2017

Deadline Extended: June 1, 2017

Chicago Review is organizing a special issue on the history and legacies of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) in Chicago. This issue will bring together a range of work from scholars, movement figures, and contemporary writers and artists who work under the sign of Chicago BAM. The issue’s focus is on Chicago BAM across artistic disciplines, from poetry, prose fiction, and drama to visual art, music, and spoken word. We seek to publish original critical and historical essays; personal essays and narratives, memoirs, talks, interviews, manifestos, statements, and historical texts and photographs; previously unpublished poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, as well as reprints of long unavailable, scarce, or forgotten writing from Chicago BAM; and new work by contemporary poets, prose fiction writers, and dramatists. We are interested in work by and about cross-disciplinary artists; we invite images of visual art, and recordings of music and spoken-word performances, from both historical BAM and contemporary artists. Our aim is to offer a robust account of Chicago BAM by facilitating collaborations among scholars, writers, and artists, and by showcasing the intergenerational character of the movement.

The last few years have brought a renewed wave of scholarly and curatorial interest in the Chicago Black Arts Movement. In 2013 alone there were three signal programs and events at major Chicago institutions tracing the history and prehistory of Chicago BAM. That year, the University of Chicago, the Dusable Museum, and the South Side Community Art Center collaborated on AfriCOBRA in Chicago, a series of exhibitions and talks about the revolutionary visual arts collective; the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern University organized the conference Black Arts Chicago: Moves and Movements, which highlighted the reach of Chicago BAM across literature, the visual arts, music, and dance; and the Art Institute of Chicago held a major exhibition called They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, spotlighting the Chicago Black Renaissance and the generation of visual and graphic artists who preceded Chicago BAM. In 2015, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago mounted The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music 1965 to Now, shifting focus to the lively interchange between radical visual art and avant-garde jazz in Chicago’s Black Arts scene. At present the Black Arts are at the center of Chicago’s art world like few times since BAM’s historical period of the 1960s and 70s.

Even with this upsurge of interest from the academy and the museum, there is yet no book-length critical study devoted to the full scope of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago. And though recent exhibitions and programs have increasingly focused on the cross-disciplinary character of Chicago BAM, there is no current, up-to-date anthology or reader for Chicago BAM that integrates primary sources from the movement’s writers, artists, musicians, and activists. This issue of Chicago Review will help meet the need for publications that bring a multidisciplinary overview of Chicago BAM to scholarly and general audiences alike. It will also spotlight the contemporary Black Arts scene in Chicago, building on the work of arts organizations and independent presses that have inaugurated a true Black Arts resurgence in the city.

Possible topics and areas of focus include but are not limited to the following:

  • Arts collectives and workshops, such as the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA)
  • The Chicago Public Art Group, formerly the Chicago Mural Group, and the community mural movement in Chicago
  • Black artists in the graphic and commercial arts
  • Kuumba Theater and Black Arts drama in Chicago
  • Free jazz in Chicago: the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and collaborations between musicians and writers
  • Soul, R&B, Gospel, and black-owned recording companies in Chicago
  • Black independent cinema in Chicago
  • Publishers, presses, and magazines, such as the John H. Johnson Company, Third World Press, Negro Digest/Black World, and Brilliant Corners
  • Legacy institutions such as the South Side Community Art Center and their vital role for Chicago BAM
  • Major and neglected authors, artists, and musicians: from Gwendolyn Brooks to Randson Boykin; Wadsworth Jarrell to William Walker; Curtis Mayfield to Ruby Andrews
  • Chicago BAM in a regional context: the Chicago-Detroit-East St. Louis axis
  • The Black Arts, Black Power, and current activist organizing in Chicago
  • Poetry and performance: contemporary spoken word, slam, and hip hop in Chicago
  • The Chicago youth poetry movement


Submission Requirements:

Submissions are due June 1, 2017. Brief, informal proposals in advance of the submission deadline are highly encouraged. For essays, manuscripts should be 2,500-8,000 words. For literary writing, we will consider manuscripts or selections of 5 to 25 pages. For historical documents, we will consider submissions of any length; please query us in advance. All submissions should be emailed to Please address queries, proposals, and submissions to Andrew Peart (editor).