University of New Hampshire
Communications & Political Science
Mentor: Dr. John Ernest, Associate Professor of English
Political and Societal Influences on the works of Gil Scott-Heron and Saul Williams: A Comparative and Analytical Study of Two Generations of Spoken Word
Our history has been influenced by many movements and voices that have come into being from Political and Societal happenings. The historical struggle of African-Americans in search for civil rights as well as the works of two socially and politically charged performers/writers/poets of the latter half of the 20th century, Gil Scott-Heron (1949-present) and Saul Stacey Williams (1972-present), will be analyzed to see if there has there been a significant change in our democratic state to reach a better equality for its African-American citizens, or have the same issues that were written about in the past two centuries still articulated today?
The first half of this research looks at the history of the African- American struggle for equality in the United States by analyzing 1) African- American poetry from the late 18th century to present day searching for common themes concerning freedom, equality, and liberty, or lack thereof; 2) laws and court decisions concerning civil rights for African-Americans; and 3) political/artistic/societal movements of the 20th century such as the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movement, Black Studies Movement, Hip-Hop/Rap culture, and Poetry Slam Movement, to get a historical background and understanding of the struggle for African-American equality.
The second half of this research is a comparative and analytical study of the works of Scott-Heron and Williams. Their work is analyzed to see if it follows the trend of the past 200 plus years of African-American expression in the struggle for equality and also to see if much has changed politically and socially from the 1970s to now 2000s in the search and struggle to reach a better democratic equality.
I hope to find evidence to support the statement that even though many civil rights acts, Supreme Court decisions, and laws are now in place, it can be seen, through the works of Scott-Heron and Williams, that the same themes expressed by African-Americans in the past 200 plus years are still being expressed today.