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Poet reads "poem name"
Poet reads "poem name"

A NaTionWiDe CelEbRatioN
OF 250 YEaRs oF AFRiCaN AmeRicaN PoetRY

Presented by Library of America, in partnership with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

A NaTionWiDe CelEbRatioN
OF 250 YEaRs oF AFRiCaN AmeRicaN PoetRY

Presented by Library of America, in partnership with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

FeAtuReD MeDiA

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song

tHe BooK

A literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present.
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Kevin Young

AboUt KeViN YoUNg

Kevin Young is the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, recently named a National Historic Landmark, and poetry editor of The New Yorker. He is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose, most recently Brown (Knopf, 2018) as featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; and Bunk (Graywolf, 2017), which won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Nonfiction, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and named a New York Times Notable Book. He is the editor of nine other volumes, including the Library of America anthology African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (2020). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2020.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Worked as an assistant to E.N. French—a self-professed medium who operated out of an office in Chicago’s famed Mecca Building

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Langston Hughes

Worked as a newspaper correspondent during the Spanish Civil War.

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Sterling A. Brown

"Low mounds have swollen in the fenced off corner,
Over brown children, marked by white-washed stones{...}”

From “Virginia Portrait"
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Lucille Clifton

“the girl is rising in me [. . .] she is asking for more than
most men are able to give,
but she means to have what she has earned,
sweet sighs, safe houses,
hands she can trust.

From “to my friend, Jerina"
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Paul Laurence Dunbar

Met Frederick Douglass, who quickly became Dunbar’s mentor and employer, during the Chicago World’s Fair (World’s Columbian Exposition) in 1893.

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Frances E.W. Harper

Became the first African American woman to publish a short story—the feminist-themed tale “The Two Offers” (1859)

Read More

Michael S. Harper

“Blossoms in a peanut field
won’t bring me home;
something in the hum
of cotton is a glue
that won’t hold red soil still;
ten million voices spliced
on an iron cross
between the world, and me,
and you."

From “The Meaning of Protest”
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Alison C. Rollins

“i curse the phantom belly-
moon, can still hear the
sound of you in still water.
the wind begins to push
a heavy rain, drops spill from
every crevice of the flower.
pouring, the rain always all ways
asks for forgiveness.
a ghost kneels in me,
asks to be spared

From “original [sin]”
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Nikki Giovanni

Was a co-host on the PBS variety show Soul!, which aired from 1968 to 1973. Interviewed Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne, and James Baldwin.

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Claude McKay

“De early days pass quickly ‘long,
Soon I became a man,
An’ one day foundmyself among
Strange folks in a strange lan’.
My little joys, my wholesome min’,
Deybullied out o’ me,
And made me daily mournan’ pine
An’ wish dat I was free.”

From “My Mountain Home”
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Aja Monet

"years of a sun loving us, solitude is
in the wrist of a magnolia tree, hung or lynched
in a rose-throated croon of liberty and justice for all [. . .]"

From “We Are”
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Jamila Woods

"I want to hold a poem in my fist in the alley just in case.
I want a poem for dude at the bus stop. Oh you can’t talk
ma?
Words to make the body inside my body less invisible."

From "Blk Girl Art, after Amiri Baraka"
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Robert Hayden

"October—
its plangency, its glow
as of words in
the poet’s mind,
as ofGod in
the saint’s.”

From “October”
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Kevin Young

"is music is men
off early from work is waiting
for the chance at the chair
while the eagle claws holes
in your pockets keeping
time by the turning
of rusty fans steel flowers with
cold breezes [. . .]"

From “Eddie Priest’s Barbershop & Notary Closed Mondays
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Kate Rushin

“Quietly rough
Tough quiet
A dignified riot
Quietly outrageous
Roughrighteous
Up
right
us
Up
lift
us
Connect us

From “Rosa Revisited”
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Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks
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Gwendolyn Brooks

Langston Hughes
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Sterling A. Brown

"Low mounds have swollen in the fenced off corner,
Over brown children, marked by white-washed stones{...}”

From “Virginia Portrait"
Read More
Sterling A. Brown
Learn More

Sterling A. Brown

"Low mounds have swollen in the fenced off corner,
Over brown children, marked by white-washed stones{...}”

From “Virginia Portrait"
Read More
Lucille Clifton
Learn More

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Met Frederick Douglass, who quickly became Dunbar’s mentor and employer, during the Chicago World’s Fair (World’s Columbian Exposition) in 1893.

Read More
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Learn More

Frances E.W. Harper

Became the first African American woman to publish a short story—the feminist-themed tale “The Two Offers” (1859)

Read More
Frances E.W. Harper
Learn More

Michael S. Harper

“Blossoms in a peanut field
won’t bring me home;
something in the hum
of cotton is a glue
that won’t hold red soil still;
ten million voices spliced
on an iron cross
between the world, and me,
and you."

From “The Meaning of Protest”
Read More
Michael S. Harper
Learn More

Alison C. Rollins

“i curse the phantom belly-
moon, can still hear the
sound of you in still water.
the wind begins to push
a heavy rain, drops spill from
every crevice of the flower.
pouring, the rain always all ways
asks for forgiveness.
a ghost kneels in me,
asks to be spared

From “original [sin]”
Read More
Alison C. Rollins
Learn More

Nikki Giovanni

Was a co-host on the PBS variety show Soul!, which aired from 1968 to 1973. Interviewed Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne, and James Baldwin.

Read More
Nikki Giovanni
Learn More

Claude McKay

“De early days pass quickly ‘long,
Soon I became a man,
An’ one day foundmyself among
Strange folks in a strange lan’.
My little joys, my wholesome min’,
Deybullied out o’ me,
And made me daily mournan’ pine
An’ wish dat I was free.”

From “My Mountain Home”
Read More
Claude McKay
Learn More

Aja Monet

"years of a sun loving us, solitude is
in the wrist of a magnolia tree, hung or lynched
in a rose-throated croon of liberty and justice for all [. . .]"

From “We Are”
Read More
Aja Monet
Learn More

Aja Monet

"years of a sun loving us, solitude is
in the wrist of a magnolia tree, hung or lynched
in a rose-throated croon of liberty and justice for all [. . .]"

From “We Are”
Read More
Kate Rushin
Learn More

Jamila Woods

"I want to hold a poem in my fist in the alley just in case.
I want a poem for dude at the bus stop. Oh you can’t talk
ma?
Words to make the body inside my body less invisible."

From "Blk Girl Art, after Amiri Baraka"
Read More
Jamila Woods
Learn More

Robert Hayden

"October—
its plangency, its glow
as of words in
the poet’s mind,
as ofGod in
the saint’s.”

From “October”
Read More
Robert Hayden
Learn More

Kevin Young

"is music is men
off early from work is waiting
for the chance at the chair
while the eagle claws holes
in your pockets keeping
time by the turning
of rusty fans steel flowers with
cold breezes [. . .]"

From “Eddie Priest’s Barbershop & Notary Closed Mondays
Read More
Kevin Young
Learn More

Library of America, in partnership with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, presents Lift Every Voice, a nationwide celebration of the 250-year-long African American poetic tradition.

FALL 2020
African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, a definitive new Library of America anthology edited by poet and Schomburg Center Director Kevin Young.
2020–2021
Free public events in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, and at public institutions around the country. Visit our events page to view programming.
Coming Events