Motown to Revive its Historic Black Forum Label for a ‘New Generation’

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Motown has announced the relaunch of its famed Black Forum Label to provide “a platform to a new generation of writers, thinkers and poets,” reports Variety.

Black Forum was inspired by founder Berry Gordy’s work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had released several speeches on Motown subsidiary Gordy Records. Gordy and the Motown Corporation founded Black Forum in 1971 with Dr. King’s landmark 1967 speech “Why I Oppose The War In Vietnam” as its first release. In three years, the label went on to release albums by Stokely Carmichael, Langston Hughes & Margaret Danner, Wallace Terry, Ossie Davis & Bill Cosby and others.

Stokely Carmichael - Free Huey!
Stokely Carmichael’s “Free Huey!” published by Black Forum Records

With Black Forum’s relaunch in 2021, six of the historic albums that established its legacy will be reissued, beginning with Dr. King’s “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” on February 26. Over the course of this year, the remaining five releases will be Stokely Carmichael’s “Free Huey,” Langston Hughes & Margaret Danner’s “Writers of the Revolution,” Guess Who’s Coming Home “Black Fighting Men Recorded Live in Vietnam,” Ossie Davis’ “Congressional Black Caucus” and “Black Spirits: Festival of New Black Poets in America,” including appearances by Imamu Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, and The Last Poets.

The relaunch also aims to spark candid conversations to mold and inspire the next generation of “game changers” via podcasts, Black community forums, Motown Museum events and programs and digital initiatives.

Ethiopia Habtemariam, President of Motown Records, said, “As we navigate our way through unprecedented times, racial and social tensions are at a high. We felt an urgent need to reactivate Black Forum in order to provide information alongside inspiration. The label provided a clear-cut reflection of who America was at the time of civil unrest in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Now, we look to extend and expound on the original principles and purpose of Black Forum.”

The relaunch is part of a partnership with Motown Museum in Detroit. Motown Museum Chairwoman and CEO Robin Terry said, “We are delighted to collaborate with our partner Motown Records for the relaunch of this iconic label and the yearlong programming around Black Forum. Storytelling, education and the power of shared experience is a vital part of Motown Museum’s DNA. The rich heritage of the Black Forum label has long been an important chapter in the continuing story of Motown.” 

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