Amiri Baraka, a leader and inspiration within the Black Arts movement, opened the Black Arts Repertory Theater/School (BARTS) in 1964, which, in combination with the Black Arts movement, promoted an interest in music, poetry, art, and drama in Harlem, New York. During the 1960’s, Baraka began to distance himself from mainstream white American culture while aligning himself with the politics of Black Nationalism. Baraka wrote “A Poem for Black Hearts” to eulogize Malcolm X, a separatist leader of the Civil Rights movement, who was assassinated in 1965. While iconizing the political figure of Malcolm X as a symbol of African American masculinity, dignity, and self-consciousness, the poem’s speaker urges “black men” to “avenge” Malcolm’s death.
The poem, written in free verse, consists of twenty-seven lines that build an image of Malcolm X, which immortalizes him as a “black god of our time” while encouraging African American men to continue the struggle for civil rights. Malcolm’s body and essence are fragmented by the speaker; each part of Malcolm’s body is given significance so that the created image of the fallen leader becomes an image for all “black men.” While the poem is “For Black Hearts,” it is also “For Malcolm’s eyes,” which, according to the speaker, have the ability to break “the face of some dumb white man” by challenging his authority, his bigotry. The poem is “For/ Malcolm’s hands,” which...
(The entire section is 531 words.)