Black Poetry day celebrates the life and legacy of Black poets and their work. It also encourages viewing poetry as a form of African-Americal oral tradition. The date was chosen to honor Jupiter Hammon, who was possibly the first Black poet to be published in the United States. It was proposed by librarian Stanley Ransom of the Huntington Library of Long Island in 1970, who wrote “America’s First Negro Poet; Jupiter Hammon of Long Island”. In addition, there has been an effort to establish the day as a state holiday in Arizona and Oregon.
Spotlight: Amanda Gorman
Perhaps the Black poet who has been making the most news lately is Amanda Gorman. A native of Los Angeles, CA- she overcame a childhood stutter to become a National Youth Poet Laureate. Most of America’s introduction to Gorman was at the 2021 presidential inauguration, but she has been making a name for herself and other minority youth as the founder of One Pen One Page. Mirroring influences from Martin Luther King Jr. and Maya Angelou, her work places her in the canon of Black poets whose work took the form of important social activism. Listen to “The Hill We Climb”.
Looking for Digital Library Resources?
Sounding Race in Rap Songs by Loren Kajikawa
Robert Hayden in Verse: New Histories of African American Poetry and the Black Arts Era By Derik Smith
Databases and Journals
Furious Flower channel from Alexander Street via ProQuest
Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters
Negro American Literature Forum
Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire
Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism
In Need of Some Primary Sources?
- The Harlem Renaissance research guide from the Library of Congress
- Furious Flower Poetry Center collection from Alexander Street via Proquest
- Negro Digest
Tips for Browsing the Stacks
Poetry falls under call number range PN1010-1525 and PN6099-6110, which is located in the basement of Warner Library. If you are looking for books about poets themselves or placing their works in historical context, also try PN1110-1279 for history and criticism. Black literature specifically is coded PN841.
Selections from the Children’s Section
- My people by Hughes, Langston
- Ellington was not a street by Shange, Ntozake
- Here in Harlem : poems in many voices by Myers, Walter Dean
- I, too, am America by Hughes, Langston
Selections from the Social Justice Collection
Come Sunday by Grimes, Nikki
The collected works of Langston Hughes by Hughes, Langston
Resources on Black Poetry of the Present