Julius E. Thompson: Dudley Randall, Broadside Press, and the Black Arts Movement in Detroit, 1960-1995 (McFarland & Company, 1999)

Between 1965 and 1995 two independent black-run presses in Detroit, Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press and Naomi Long Madgett’s Lotus Press, and Chicago’s Third World Press run by Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don L. Lee), became the leading U.S. publishers of African American poetry of the Black Arts Movement of the sixties and beyond, publishing hundreds of black poets in the form of broadsides (single sheet poems), poetry pamphlets, posters, tapes, and anthologies – inexpensive formats matching the resources, economic and otherwise, of both publishers and intended buyers.

To these must be added the Dutch-born Paul Breman’s London-based Heritage Series of poetry by African poets and poets of the African diaspora, including African Americans. Distributed in the U.S. by Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press, the Heritage series ran to 27 titles between 1962 and 1972 (see also his anthology You Better Believe It: Black Verse in English, Penguin Books, 1973).

Julius E. Thompson’s book – heavy with tables, figures, notes, etc. – address all this and more,  even as its focus is on Randall and Broadside Press. According to Thompson, Dudley Randall (1914-2000), Naomi Long Madgett (1923-), Haki R. Madhubuti (1942-) – themselves major African American poets – and Paul Breman (1931-2008) as publishers/editors reinvigorated the career of older poets like Sterling A. Brown, Robert Hayden, Owen Dodson, Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Samuel W. Allen (Paul Vesey), and publisher Naomi Long Madgett herself.

And some older poets even had their first book of poems published by one of those four presses: Frank Horne, Arna Bontemps, and William Waring Cuney (three minor poets of the Harlem Renaissance era finally published in the Heritage Series), Margaret Danner, Ray Durem, Lance Jeffers, James A. Emanuel and Dudley Randall (see also the Random Notes article: Dudley Randall and Broadside Press: ‘Overlooked No More’ by The New York Times).

Among the numerous poets of the next generation with at least one book of poems published by one of the presses and best known today are: Russell Atkins, Alvin Aubert, Houston A. Baker, Jr.,Amiri Baraka, Toi Derricotte, Ronald L. Fair, Nikki Giovanni, Everett Hoagland, Angela Jackson, Gayl Jones, Sybil Kein, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Etheridge Knight, Pinkie Gordon Lane, Audre Lorde, Haki R. Madhubuti, Clarence Major, E. Ethelbert Miller, Sterling D. Plumpp, Eugene B. Redmond, Ishmael Reed, Carolyn Rodgers, Gil Scott-Heron, Conrad Kent Rivers, Sonia Sanchez, and Askia Toure, many (the three poet/editors included) publishing with more than one press.

The anthology a different image: the legacy of broadside press, edited by Gloria House, Rosemary Weatherstone and Albert M. Ward (University of Detroit Mercy Press and Broadside Press, 2004), selects poems of six major Broadside Press poets: Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, Audre Lorde, Haki R. Madhubuti, Dudley Randall, Sonia Sanchez – taking its title from a Randall poem, and including a CD with recitations by the editors (Ward and House) of selected poems.