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*On this date in 1969, the "Black Academy of Arts and Letters (BAAL)" was founded.
Molded in the structure of its predecessor the American Negro Academy, the BAAL was created to bring together Black artists and scholars from all over the world. Chartered and by the State of New York the organization’s officers were: C. Eric Lincoln, President; John O. Killens, Vice-president; Doris Saunders, Secretary; Alvin F.Poussaint, treasurer; and Julia Prettyman, Executive Director. Other Board members included Charles V. Hamilton, Vincent Harding, Robert Hooks, Charles White and John A. Williams.
Additional members and fellows of the Academy from 1969-1972 included Julian Adderley, Alvin Ailey, Margaret Walker Alexander, James Baldwin, Imamu Baraka, Etta Moten Barnett, Romare Bearden, Harry Belafonte, Lerone Bennett, Arna W. Bontempts, Wilfred Cartey, John Henry Clarke, Floyd Coleman, Oliver Cromwell Cox, Earnest Crinchlow, John A. Davis, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee Davis, St. Clair Drake, Earnest Dunbar, Katherine Dunham, Lonne Elder, III, Duke Ellington, John Hope Franklin, Alex Haley, Inge Hardison, Vertis C. Hayes, Vivian Henderson, Adelaide Cromwell Hill, Chester Himes, Lena Horne, Jean Hutson, Martin Kilson, Jacob Lawrence, Elma Lewis, Henry Lewis, Paule Marshall, Benjamin E. Mayes, Donald McKayle, Arthur Mitchell, Carlton Moss, Frederick O’Neal, Gordon Parks, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy B. Porter, Benjamin Quarles, Lawrence Reddick, (Jay) Saunders Redding, Lloyd Richards, Lucille D. Roberts, Paul LeRoy Roberson, Carl T. Rowan, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Nina Simone, Elliot Skiller, Chuck Stone, Charles H. Wesley, Hale Woodruff and more.
Some of the major programs created by BAAL include the Incentive Awards to Promising Artists and Scholars, Revolving Chairs of Black Arts and Letters at Black Colleges, Touring Exhibits of Black Art Support of Black Arts at the community level, Black Academy Hall of fame, and A directory of Cultural Activities in the Black Community. Other activities included a Biennial Conference of Black Artists and Scholars.
Annual competitions and festivals of Black film makers, annual retreats for Black writers, the establishment of cultural archives covering all major artists and scholars both living and deceased, a manual for the guidance of Black writers in preparing material for publication, and oral history of the Black experience. By the early part of 1973, the BAAL had undergone some administrative changes and it became non-operational one year later.
Both academies, ANA and BAAL, however, had lived up to their objectives. They gave reality to theory and solidity to imagination.
The Black Academy of Arts and Letters
Dallas Convention Center Theatre Complex
650 South Griffin St.
Dallas, TX 75202