Images of Black Power, 1965--1975: A visual commentary on revolution

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Hope Irvine


Black Power, Revolution, African-Americans, art history

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Art and Architecture | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Other Teacher Education and Professional Development


This study seeks to address the role of images created during the Black Power movement and to provide evidence that a gap in the art historical research exists. According to Lewis, the art and artists are not unrecognized because they are ignored, but because there are seldom observed (Lewis, 1969). Although Black artists and art historians have posited that there is no way to separate the cultural effort from the social condition which inspired and influenced it, an examination of art surveys seem to have done just that (Jackson, 1971; Bearden & Henderson, 1993). This study seeks to illustrate the relationship between art of the Black power movement and the people, as well as identify the images which documented the struggle and created revolution by virtue of their subject matter (Patton, 1989).

The Black Power movement emanated from a collective cry for justice from a cross-section of Black America. It negated boundaries of socioeconomic conditions, geographic and generational status (Lewis, 1971). Although these artists-activists operated in the role of visual storytellers, the passage of time has neglected to record the story of these illustrative griots.

Residing within this topic of Black Power, are sub-issues of identity and aesthetics. Questions of personal responsibility and social accountability were also the focus of Black people. The art and artists of the era were often measured against this standard (Ransaw, 1979). Critical issues began to be debated in collectives and on street corners.

The qualitative technique of document analysis was utilized via grounded theory design (Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Hodder, 1998). The data collection will consist of exhibition catalogues, books, and periodicals written during the Black Power Era, as well as documents written as reflective text, both historical and autobiographical.

The results of this study will begin to address the gap in research and articulate the role that these images had on a Black nation, the country and arguably the world. Art educationally, the findings will aid in creating a more critical discussion in regards to multicultural art and begin to help educators re-connect Black art and artists to all aspects of their history beyond the Harlem Renaissance and the WPA. Ultimately the research intends to give credit to many of the artists-activists who recorded the history of a nation.


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