Started by the African American writer Amriri Baraka, better known as LeRoi Jones, The Black Arts Movement or the Black Aesthetics movement was a powerful aesthetic side of the Black Power movement. It started in the sixties and was also based out of Harlem with Jones establishing the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/ School (BARTS). The movement made important contributions to both African American literature and the American literature as a whole. It was thanks to this movement that African American individuals started to establish their own publishing houses, magazines, journals, and art institutions. Indeed, after this movement was launched, African American studies began to be taught in universities across the United States. Apart from Langston Hughes, the prominent figures that were associated with the movement include Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Hoyt W. Fuller, and Rosa Guy.
The movement achieved an important goal in revolutionizing the American literary canon by including within it the voices of the oppressed. Before this the voices of the ethnic and racial minorities were not given a place in the mainstream literary discussions. But after the movement, the American literary canon became more diversified. Genres like theatre, poetry, dance, and music from the racial and ethnic minorities received greater attention, thanks to the movement.
Hughes played an especially important role of the catalyst to this movement during the 1950s and 1960s. He was at the forefront of promoting the movement through his dramas, essays, and short fiction. Apart from this he also actively worked towards promoting the careers of young militant Black artists by helping them out emotionally, practically, morally, and financially. He also made sure that he talks about the movement and the work associated with it. He wrote as a constructive critic and discussed both about the new black writings and the responses of some of the artists, activists, and intellectuals of his generation towards the works of the new writers. His writings reminded the young artists and writers of the movement of the long history of radicalism in black arts and culture and while at the same time criticised the older writers for being too critical against the new Back radicalism and forgetting the radicalism of their times and their own radical youth.