Created between 1980 and 1987, the notebooks demonstrate how Basquiat began to develop the artistic strategies that would inform his large-scale works. He combined text and images in a raw expressionist style to explore culture and society through historical and popular themes. Early sketches of subjects that recur in later works, such as tepees, skeletal faces and crowns, appear in the earliest notebooks from 1980-81. The notebook writings range from extended narrative poems and wordplay to observations of New York's street life, along with lists of celebrities and incidental notes from the artist's personal life. As in his paintings, fragments of found texts appear throughout the notebooks, incorporating street signage, news stories, and references from literature and the Old Testament. Other pages reflect Basquiat's overriding interest in highlighting racial discrimination and acknowledging the important contributions of African Americans and other people of color, as well as his interests in music, world history and popular culture.