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Hoyt Fuller

(1923—1981)


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(1923–1981), editor, critic, and leading figure of the Black Arts movement.

Born in Atlanta but reared in Detroit where he graduated from Wayne State University, Hoyt Fuller embarked on a career in journalism and editing. He held positions with the Michigan Chronicle, the Detroit Tribune, and Collier's Encyclopedia, among others. Increasingly frustrated by American racism, he went abroad in 1957, living in France and in Spain; later, attracted by the anticolonial stance of Sekou Toure of Guinea, he travelled in Africa, an experience evoked in his only book, a collection of essays, Return to Africa (1971). Fuller returned to the United States in 1960.

Fuller had worked briefly as an associate editor at the monthly Ebony in 1954 before going abroad, and when Ebony publisher John Johnson decided to revive the periodical Negro Digest in 1961, he offered Fuller the job of editing it. Fuller accepted the position but rejected the digest format, instead casting the revived periodical as a journal of creative expression and opinion. In the course of a few years, Negro Digest became the leading forum of the emerging Black Arts movement. In 1970, the periodical was renamed Black World to more accurately reflect its scope, which extended to Africa and the African diaspora.

Negro Digest/Black World (ND/BW) reflected Fuller's concerns with politics, social action, the spiritual and economic health of the black world, as well as with a wide range of artistic expression. The monthly journal was, however, open to a variety of opinions, in spite of its nationalist editorial position. By 1970, a typical issue contained approximately eight articles, a couple of short stories, poems from several bards, and a section called “Perspectives”, which was a roundup of cultural information prepared by Fuller. A short reflective essay by Fuller frequently occupied the back cover. These were occasionally replicated, as was the piece “When Is a Black Man Not an African?” In April, the “Annual Theatre Issue” appeared, eagerly awaited by a large component of the readership. In 1976, ND/BW was abruptly terminated by the publisher, occasioning widespread protest in the Black Arts community. Fuller left Chicago, reestablishing himself in Atlanta, and busying himself with the creation of a successor journal, First World. Though several issues appeared, beginning in 1977, the journal was not fated to be a success.

One of Fuller's most notable activities in the 1960s had been the creation in Chicago of OBAC (Organization of Black American Culture), which functioned primarily as a writers’ collective. OBAC participants included Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), Carolyn M. Rodgers, Nikki Giovanni and Angela Jackson. Directly influenced by OBAC was the visual arts collective AFRICOBRA, coordinated by Jeff Donaldson, a longtime associate of Fuller.

Fuller also taught creative writing and African American literature part-time at a number of colleges and universities. Over time these included Columbia College, Chicago; Northwestern University; Indiana University; Cornell University; and Metropolitan Community College, Atlanta.

Fuller attended and reported extensively on the First World Festival of Negro Arts and Culture held in Dakar in 1966, under the patronage of the president of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor. In 1971, Fuller attended the Colloquium on Negritude in Dakar, at which Senghor announced a forthcoming second festival to be held in Nigeria. Fuller convened a North American assembly in Chicago to prepare for participation in this second festival, FESTAC, which was finally held in 1977. He was also active in a series of New World Festivals of the African diaspora, initiated in 1978.

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Subjects: Literature.


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