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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Afro-American Studies

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

James E. Smethurst

Second Advisor

John H. Bracey Jr.

Third Advisor

Steven Tracy

Fourth Advisor

Emily Lordi

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Literature | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Women's Studies


This dissertation is a literary and intellectual history of the contributions of black American theorists, poets, and dramatists in the 1960s and 1970s towards the establishment of black critical consciousness in order to lay grounds for black people to experience a fuller existence as human beings through black-centered creations and presentations. Through the following chapters, I establish the framework and evolution of black psyche-liberation theories—spanning Du Bois’s theory of double-conscious through the contributions of black artist-theorists like Baraka, Neal, and Woodie King, Jr., followed by examinations at length of the theories of black liberation in praxis by the poets and dramatists of African descent writing in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Many artists I examine—including, yet not limited to, Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Ed Bullins—were affiliated with the well-known Black Arts Movement, which focused on a revolutionary, black-centered commentary on American society through the arts with a goal of black liberation and veneration of an African past, the African-American present, the restoration of black masculinity, and the future of the people as a nation. However, other artists of this period, including black female poets Audre Lorde and Toni Cade Bambara and, later, playwright Ntozake Shange, presented further discussions of the intersections of identity and consciousness not only as black women but as members of the gay/lesbian and feminist struggles for equal rights in America, issues which add a layer of reflection to the calls of Black Arts arbiters for critical consciousness and demands a more complicated and multifaceted examination of what it means to be human and liberated as a black person in America.