Art and Activism: The Reshaping of Collective Consciousness and Social Justice

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

In his 1962 essay, “The Creative Process,” James Baldwin writes, “A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven. . .The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.” The link between artist and activist illustrates the import of black public voices that challenge institutions of white supremacy, gender oppression, and systemic dehumanization. Historically, artists have critiqued, documented, and contextualized racial violence to ensure that the past is not forgotten and to reshape the nation’s consciousness. Consequently, their efforts mobilized activists to establish organizations, such as the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Combahee River Collective, that disrupt and dismantle socio-political associations that marginalize and oppress. Today, the Black Lives Matter Movement, with its global impact, is inextricably linked to the memories of such artists as David Walker, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Claude McKay, Jacob Lawrence, and Gayl Jones. Artists who dared to “expose the question the answer hides.” Historically, the shaping and reshaping of the nation’s collective conscious reveals an indelible link between artistry and activism that confronts racial injustice, critiques inaction, and challenges indifference.

This roundtable seeks papers that consider artists, intellectuals, and activists that cultivate a black public voice that documents and contextualizes the history of Black social protests and ongoing discourses on social justice and equality. Papers on any literary and/or historical movement are welcome, especially those that focus on intersectionality as part of this ongoing discourse. Please send one-page abstracts (300-400 words) that include your name, academic affiliation, and contact information to the NEMLA portal ( by September 30, 2021. The session ID is 19223. Accepted submissions will be notified after the deadline.