Celebrating African American Poetry and Poets

Posted on January 29, 2019

by Jan C

African Americans have profoundly influenced American poetry, from Phillis Wheatley to Paul Lawrence Dunbar, through the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and into this twenty-first century explosion of brilliant new poets.

Celebrate the Beauty and Power of African American Poetry

Recent African-American Poetry

Black girl magic : a poem / by Mahogany L. Browne ; art by Jess X. Snow

Black Magic Girl : A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne

Celebrates the strength and magic found in black girls, challenging the conditioning of society by offering a tribute to black women and girls everywhere.

The end of Chiraq : a literary mixtape / edited by Javon Johnson and Kevin Coval ; with writers from Young Chicago Authors & Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival

The End of Chiraq : A Literary Mixtape edited by Javon Johnson and Kevin Coval

Written in true mixtape fashion, a collection of poems, rap lyrics, short stories, essays, interviews and artwork brings to life Chicago, the city that came to be known as “Chiraq” (“Chicago” + “Iraq”), and the people who live in its vibrant and occasionally violent neighborhoods.

Monument : poems : new and selected / Natasha Trethewey

Monument : Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey

The author, a two-term U.S. poet laureate, uses verse to give witness to unsung icons such as working class African American women.

Taking the arrow out of the heart : poems / Alice Walker ; translated by Manuel García Verdecia

Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart : Poems by Alice Walker

Alice Walker, author of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Color Purple” crafts a bilingual collection that is both playfully imaginative and intensely moving.

Contemporary and Classic African-American Poetry
The Complete poetry by Maya Angelou
Selected poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Complete poems / James Weldon Johnson ; edited with an introduction by Sondra Kathryn Wilson
Olio by Tyehimba Jess
Heaven / Rowan Ricardo Phillips
SOS: Poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka
Don't Call Us Dead : Poems by Danez Smith
Collected poems : 1974--2004 / Rita Dove
Use trouble : poems / by Michael S. Harper
The collected poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 / edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser ; foreword by Toni Morrison ; afterword by Kevin Young
The Collected poems of Langston Hughes / Arnold Rampersad, editor, David Roessel, associate editor
Wild beauty = Belleza salvaje : new and selected poems / Ntozake Shange ; translated by Alejandro Álvarez Nieves

African American Poetry for Children

Seeing into tomorrow / haiku by Richard Wright ; illustrated by Nina Crews

Seeing Into Tomorrow Haiku by Richard Wright

From watching a sunset to finding a beetle, Richard Wright’s haiku puts everyday moments into focus. Paired with the photo-collage artwork of Nina Crews, Seeing into Tomorrow celebrates the lives of contemporary African American boys.

A song for Gwendolyn Brooks / Alice Faye Duncan ; illustrated by Xia Gordon

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan

A collection of poems profiles the Chicago author who gave voice to the urban African American experience in the twentieth century.

The Great Migration : journey to the North / by Eloise Greenfield ; illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
The Great Migration : journey to the North by Eloise Greenfield

Describes the period of the 20th century when many African Americans left the South to make better lives for themselves in the northern states.

More Notable Poetry Selections for Children to Explore
Langston Hughes / edited by Arnold Rampersad & David Roessel ; illustrations by Benny Andrews
Keep climbing, girls / by Beah E. Richards ; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie ; introduction by LisaGay Hamilton
The Palm of my heart : poetry by African American children / edited by Davida Adedjouma ; illustrated by Gregory Christie ; introduction by Lucille Clifton
Pass it on : African-American poetry for children / selected by Wade Hudson ; illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Looking for online sources?

Black History Month – Academy of American Poets
To celebrate Black History Month in February—and the rich tradition of African American poetry all year long—browse essays on literary milestones and movements, find important books on black history and poetics, look for lesson plans for Black History Month, read archival letters from classic African American poets, and search poems about the African American experience by both classic and contemporary poets.

Celebrating Black History Month – Poetry Foundation
Poems, articles, and podcasts that explore African American history and culture.

University of Pittsburg Center for African American Poets and Poetics
The mission of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) at the University of Pittsburgh is to highlight, promote, and share the poetry and poetic work of African American and African diasporic writers.

Related Toledo Library Blog Posts

6 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Books to Read During Black History Month and Beyond

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