Black Social Movements Past and Present: A Comparative Analysis of the Black Arts Movement and the Hip Hop Movement.

Author:Cromartie, J. Vern


During the 20th century in the United States of America (USA), Black people developed a host of social movements to address social problems they faced. In the first 25 years of the century, Black people developed the Pan-African Movement, Niagara Movement, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Moorish Science Temple of America, New Negro Movement, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption, and Harlem Renaissance as social movements. Between 1926 and 1950, Black people developed the Nation of Islam, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Council on African Affairs, and Peace Information Center as social movements. The period between 1951 and 1975 saw Black people develop social movements such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Alabama Human Rights Movement (AHRM), Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), Lowndes County Freedom Democratic Party, Black Arts Movement, Black Power Movement, US, Black Panther Party, House of Umoja, and the Hip Hop Movement (Du Bois, 1968; Garvey, 1923, 1986; Newton, 1973; Carmichael and Thelwell, 2003; Ahmad, 2008; Rogers, 2009; Aldridge, 2002, 2005; Wobogo, 2011).

This paper will focus on Black social movements past and present with special reference to the Black Arts Movement and the Hip Hop Movement. It will examine the Black Arts Movement as a social movement that emerged during the mid-1960s and lasted until the mid-1970s. It will also examine the Hip Hop Movement as a social movement which emerged during the early 1970s and has lasted to the present. This paper will present a comparative analysis of both social movements and identify their goals, ideologies, organization and status systems, and tactics. The comparative analysis will include an examination of both movements' internal development in the form of the incipient phase, organizational phase, and stable phase. Likewise, the comparative analysis will include an examination of both movements' external development in the form of innovation, selection, and integration. In addition, this paper will address some implications of the Black Arts Movement and the Hip Hop Movement as social movements. The methodology employed in this study consisted of a mixed methods approach, including the case study, participant observation, and a qualitative survey. Research techniques included direct observation, interviews with people involved in the two movements, and content analysis of primary and secondary source documents. (1)

As used here, the term "social movement" refers to an organized collective effort by a group of people to address a social problem. This definition of a social movement draws on the insight of Theodorson and Theodorson (1969) and Jary and Jary (2006). Theodorson and Theodorson have said that a social movement involves an "important form of collective behavior in which large numbers of people are organized or alerted to support and bring about or to resist social change" (p. 390). Jary and Jary have stated that a social movement is "any broad social alliance of people who are associated in seeking to effect or to block an aspect of social change within a society" (p. 575).

The term "social problem," as used here, refers to a social condition that (1) affects large number of people; (2) threatens the values of an influential group of people; and (3) can be solved through collective action. The definition of a social problem draws on the insight of Theodorson and Theodorson (1969), Jary and Jary (2006), Ladner (1973), Lauer (1976), Glynn, Hohm, and Stewart (1996), Loseke (2003), and Spector and Kitsuse (2000). Theodorson and Theodorson have related that a social problem is any "undesirable condition or situation that is judged by an influential number of persons within a community to be intolerable and to require group action toward constructive reform" (p. 392). Jary and Jary have noted that a social problem involves "aspects of social life seen to warrant concern and intervention" (p. 577).

All social movements have an ideology. As used here, the term "ideology" refers to a set of ideas and norms that can be used as the guiding philosophy of a group of people. This definition of an ideology draws on the insight of Theodorson and Theodorson (1969), Jary and Jary (2006), Pinckney (1976), and Alkalimat (1973). Theodorson and Theodorson have defined an ideology in the following manner: "A system of interdependent ideas (beliefs, traditions, principles, and myths) held by a social group or society, which reflects, rationalizes, and defends its particular social, moral, religious, political, and economic institutional interests and commitments" (p. 195). Jary and Jary have defined an ideology as "any system of ideas underlying and informing social and political action" (p. 289). Pinckney informed us that the "ideology of black nationalism is widespread among a significant segment of America's black community" (p. 1).

Review of the Literature

In the discipline of sociology, social movements have long been the subject of scholarly discussion. Since 1973, the American Sociological Association has maintained a section on social movements. Thus, social movements have been a key topic of discussion at American Sociological Association conferences. It has also been a key topic of discussion at Pacific Sociological Association conferences, California Sociological Association conferences, and those of other organizations.

During the middle of the 20th century and the turn of the 21st century, several classic books were published on the systematic study of social movements. Heberle (1951) sought to present a general theory of social movements. In the case of Heberle, he informed us that, "The main criterion of a social movement... is that it aims to bring about fundamental changes in the social order, especially in the basic institutions of property and labor relationships" (p. 6). Heberle posed that "it may be claimed that the study of social movements was one of the origins of sociology" (p. 3). In a similar fashion, King (1956) argued that social movements "constitute a significant subject for sociology" (p. v). He proceeded to identify some elements of a social movement, including goals, ideology, organization and status systems, and tactics.

King also identified social movements' internal development in the form of the incipient phase, organizational phase, and stable phase and the external development in the form of innovation, selection, and integration. Cameron (1966) informed us that: "A social movement occurs when a fairly large number of people band together in order to alter or supplant some portion of the existing culture or social order" (p. 7). Cameron emphasized that it is important to understand the background of a given society as well as the purposes and actions of a social movement in it. As examples in his book, Cameron looked at the Nation of Islam as a social movement and the Civil Rights Movement as a social movement.

Between the year 2000 and the year 2013, the literature on social movements in the USA continued to grow. That literature covered social movements among the Black population, including the Black Arts Movement and the Hip Hop Movement. Some of the important primary source books related to the Black Arts Movement were written by Karenga (2007), Ahmad (2008), Salaam (2009), Perkins (2009), and Marvin X (2009). (2) Some of the important secondary source books, which appeared between 2000 and 2013, were those written or edited by Gabbin (2004), Clarke (2005), Sell (2005), Smethhurst (2005), Collins and Crawford (2006), Reeves (2008), Robson (2008), and Phelps (2013).

In terms of the Hip Hop Movement, some of the important primary source books released between 2000 and 2013 were authored by Fricke and Ahearn (2002), Kitwana (2002), Paniccioli (2002), Nelson (2005), Dean (2008), Jay-Z (2010), and Comissiong (2012). Some of the important secondary sources on the Hip Hop Movement have been authored and/or edited by Toop (2000), Krims (2000), T. Mitchell (2001), Westbrook (2002), Boyd (2002, 2003), Bozza (2003), Pinn (2003), Wang (2003) Bogdanov, Woodstra, and Erlewine (2003), Spence (2003), Maxwell (2003), Forman and Neal (2004), Bynoe (2004), Perry (2004), Keyes (2004), Pough (2004), Chang (2005), Cheney (2005a), Cooke and Lawrence (2005), Watkins (2005), Alim (2006), Collins (2006), Cobb (2007), Donalson (2007), Hess (2007), Knight (2007), Ogbar (2007), Douglas (2008), Hodge (2010), Rabaka (2011, 2012, 2013), and Price (2012).

Because of their in-depth studies of the Hip Hop Movement under guest editors, two special issues of the Journal of African American Studies and the Journal of Hip Hop Studies have been selected for a relatively more detailed examination. During the summer of 2005, the Journal of African American History released a special issue on "The History of Hip Hop." In a thoughtful introduction to the special issue, Aldridge and Stewart (2005) unabashedly state that Hip Hop has been "commodified by what Frankfurt School theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno called 'the culture industry,' which has distributed Hip Hop to the masses in ways that reinforce historical stereotypes about African Americans by highlighting sexist, misogynistic, and nihilistic lyrics and images" (p. 193). Aldridge and Stewart also assert that the five essays in the special issue "offer complex interpretations of Hip Hop that often defy and challenge the negative images promulgated by mainstream commercial media" (p. 193). Authors of the five essays include J. B. Stewart (2005), Aldridge (2005), Phillips, Reddick-Morgan, and Stephens (2005), Cheney (2005a), and Dagbovie (2005). On the upside, Aldridge and Stewart set the tone for the special issue by delineating four fundamental elements of Hip Hop, namely disc...

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