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Poem Sampler

Celebrating Black History Month

Poems, articles, and podcasts that explore African American history and culture


Harlem” by Langston Hughes

On Liberty and Slavery” by George Moses Horton

Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson

Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander

I, Too” by Langston Hughes

Frederick Douglass” by Robert Hayden

Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

For My People” by Margaret Walker

Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks

The Birth of John Henry” by Melvin B. Tolson

Narrative: Ali” by Elizabeth Alexander

Canary” by Rita Dove

Booker T. and W.E.B.” by Dudley Randall 

Georgia Dusk” by Jean Toomer

Lonely Eagles” by Marilyn Nelson

In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” by June Jordan 

Malcolm X, February 1965” by E. Ethelbert Miller

American History” by Michael S. Harper

The African Burial Ground” by Yusef Komunyakaa

A Negro Love Song” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Middle Passage” by Robert Hayden

from The Lost Letters of Frederick Douglass by Evie Shockley

The Blues Don’t Change” by Al Young

Ode to Big Trend” by Terrance Hayes

waiting on the mayflower” by Evie Shockley

Nina’s Blues” by Cornelius Eady

1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” by June Jordan

Race” by Elizabeth Alexander

History as Process” by Amiri Baraka 

Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall

from Citizen: “You are in the dark, in the car...” by Claudia Rankine

Elegy for the Native Guards” by Natasha Trethewey

From the Unwritten Letters of Joseph Freeman” by Camille T. Dungy

Satchmo” by Melvin B. Tolson

Manifesto, or Ars Poetica #2” by Krista Franklin

Green-Thumb Boy” by Marilyn Nelson

The Laws of Motion” by Nikki Giovanni

Billie Holiday” by E. Ethelbert Miller

American Income” by Afaa Michael Weaver

The Slave Auction” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Miz Rosa Rides the Bus” by Angela Jackson

The Gospel of Barbecue” by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Eddie Priest’s Barbershop & Notary” by Kevin Young

A Black Man Talks of Reaping” by Arna Bontemps

Runagate Runagate” by Robert Hayden

Black Boys Play the Classics” by Toi Derricotte

Ode to Herb Kent” by Jamila Woods

alternate names for black boys” by Danez Smith

Alameda Street” by Douglas Kearney

Sorrow Home” by Margaret Walker

Dr. Booker T. Washington to the National Negro Business League” by Joseph Seamon Cotter Sr.

faithless” by Quraysh Ali Lansana

Enlightenment” by Natasha Trethewey

Harlem Shadows” by Claude McKay

Southern Gothic” by Rickey Laurentiis

Ghana Calls” by W.E.B. Du Bois

Dancing with Strom” by Nikky Finney

__________ my loved blacknesses & some blacknesses I knew” by Khadijah Queen

Afterimages” by Audre Lorde

[up from slobbery] by Harryette Mullen

Robeson at Rutgers” by Elizabeth Alexander

The Fifth Fact” by Sarah Browning

Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power” by Haki Madhubuti

The Great Pax Whitie” by Nikki Giovanni

from Citizen: “Some years there exists a wanting to escape...” by Claudia Rankine

Poem for My Father” by Quincy Troupe

Short Speech to My Friends” by Amiri Baraka

Take Me Out to the Go-Go” by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Slave Sale: New Orleans” by Charles Reznikoff



200 Years of Afro-American Poetry” by Langston Hughes

The Black Poet as Canon-Maker” by Elizabeth Alexander

The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” by Langston Hughes

The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America: Something like a sonnet for Phillis Wheatley” by June Jordan

Finding a Window: Nikky Finney on the South, Condoleezza Rice, and why curiosity trumps rage” by Kimberly Reyes

Lights and Shadows: Dewey Roscoe Jones and the Chicago Defender’s poetic legacy” by Delaney Hall

Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood” by June Jordan

Blueprint for BreakBeat WritingWhy hip-hop has everything to do with poetry” by Nate Marshall

Beware the Dog: How the African-American literary organization Cave Canem came to be” by Abigail Deutsch

Langston Hughes and the Broadway Blues” by Franklin Bruno

Jazz as Communication” by Langston Hughes

Playing by Ear, Praying for Rain: The Poetry of James Baldwin” by Nikky Finney

She Could Tell You Stories”: Lucille Clifton interviewed by Hilary Holladay 

The Roads Taken” by Haki Madhubuti

Life Upon These Shores: On Robert Hayden’s powerful poem about the transatlantic slave trade” by Lavelle Porter

Way Out of Africa: Chris Abani’s years of torture and persecution by the Nigerian government” by Charles Mudede

Art, Artifice, and Artifact: On rap’s delights” by Quraysh Ali Lansana



With A Little Help from Dr. Angelou” by the Editors

Experience, Experiment: Using Black poetry in creative writing classes” by Patricia Spears Jones

Square Toes and Icy Arms: Personification in the works of Zora Neale Hurston and James Weldon Johnson” by Catherine Barnett

Verse Journalism and the Poet as Witness: Teaching history and current events through a new type of poetry writing” by Georgia A. Popoff and Quraysh Ali Lansana

Maya Angelou 101: A brief guide to her poetry” by the Editors

Gwendolyn Brooks 101: Classic poems from a Chicago poet” by Danielle Chapman

Poem Guide on Elizabeth Alexander’s “Race” by Stephen Burt

Poem Guide on Nikky Finney’s “The Afterbirth, 1931” by Kwame Dawes

Poem Guide on Gwendolyn Brooks’s “kitchenette building” by Hannah Brooks-Motl

Poem Guide on Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” by David Biespiel

Poem Guide on Lucille Clifton’s “won’t you celebrate with me” by Robin Ekiss




The Poet and the Riot: Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem on the Chicago riots of 1968

No Images: Celebrating Black History Month with William Waring Cuney, Cornelius Eady, and Thomas Sayers Ellis

Follow the Drinking Gourd: Quraysh Ali Lansana channels the voice of Harriet Tubman

Beautiful Voices Project: Harmony Holiday on Afrosonics, an archive of rare audio clips featuring African American voices

Amiri Baraka is Back in the Building: His poetry and legacy one year after his death

Middle Passage: Robert Hayden’s harrowing narrative poem on the slave trade

Obamapoetics: Elizabeth Alexander on how the Derek Walcott-toting, June Jordan-quoting president will affect poets and poetry

Social Media, Race, and Disney Princesses: Franny Choi and Saeed Jones blend poetry and culture

I’ve Known Rivers: The poetry of Langston Hughes

When the Weary Blues Met Jazz: Langston Hughes’s collaboration with Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather

Confronting the Warpland: Black poets of Chicago” A radio documentary by Ed Herrmann

June Jordan: Producer Wesley Weissberg interviews poets and critics about June Jordan’s legacy and rap’s place in poetry.

History’s Lost and Found: Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey reads from and discusses her work

Without the Blues There Would Be No Jazz”: The magazine editors discuss poems by Danez Smith, Franny Choi, and Claudia Rankine, plus Nikky Finney on the poetry of James Baldwin.

The BreakBeat Poets: Quaraysh Ali Lansana describes how his life and poems have been shaped by hip hop, plus the editors discuss poems by Jamila Woods, Tara Betts, and Kristiana Rae Colón.

The Snowed-in Life: What does snow have to do with race?

A Name Like a Handcuff: Reginald Dwayne Betts reads his poems and discusses why he is “no longer a black poet.”

from the Washington DC Poetry Tour: Highlights featuring Reuben Jackson, Brian Gilmore, and A.B. Spellman.

Poem Sampler

Celebrating Black History Month

Poems, articles, and podcasts that explore African American history and culture

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