African American Poets

Writing poetry has been a great way for African Americans to express themselves throughout history and help unify us as a people. Poets create works with great varieties throughout different cultures as well as time periods. Below are some of the most popular black poets:

Maya Angelou (1928-present)
- a historian, author, poet, songwriter, dancer, playwright, stage and screen producer, performer, singer, director, and civil rights activist
- born Marguerite Johnson on the 4th of April 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri
- first black woman to direct in Hollywood
- 1959 – became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s coordinator as requested by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- 1961-1962 – the associate editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt, which is the sole news weekly in Middle East
- 1964-1966 – the feature editor of African Review in Accra, Ghana
- 1974 –appointed as International Woman of the Year
- 1981 –accepted the appointment for life as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University

Ai (1947-2010)
- Florence Anthony was born an American poet on 1947 in Albany, Texas
- had grown up in Tucson, Arizona
- Ancestry: part Japanese, Black, Southern Cheyenne, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Irish, and Comanche
- legally changed name to “Ai”, a Japanese word meaning “love”

gwen brooksGwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
- born in Topeka, Kansas on June 7, 1917
- at 7 years old: her mother discovered her gift for writing and was exposed to different kinds of literature
- childhood spent reading and writing stories as well as poetry in her room
- Chicago Defender, a newspaper for black community, is where her first verses appeared
- 1968 – named as poet laureate for Illinois
- 1967 - first African American who had received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award

Imamu Amiri Baraka (1934-present)
- born in Newark, New Jersey, USA on 1934
- author of more than 40 books
- has achieved several literary prizes and honors
- 1960’s - regarded as the founder of Black Arts Movement in Harlem

Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)
- born in Alexandria, Louisiana
- written biographies, black history, and children’s fiction
- complied literary anthologies
- 1923 – graduated at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California
- 1924 – started publishing his poetry in magazines
- 1926 – taught at Harlem Academy for five years at New York City
- 1931 – published his first book

Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
- original name is Thelma Lucille Sayles
- born in Depew, New York on the 27th of June 1936
- went to college and had acquaintances with poets
- her works were honored for the YW-YMCA Poetry Center Discovery Award
- received several awards in the field of poetry
- 1979-1985 – served as Poet Laureate at Maryland

Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
- born in New York City on 1903
- started to write poetry at 14 years old
- his poems were published in the Opportunity and The Crisis
- had resistance to new techniques of poetry of the Modernists
- 1923 – received a lot of awards for the poem “Ballad of the Brown Girl” and published his first volume of verse
- 1927 – controversy in black community for his 2nd volume of poetry


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