IdeAs of AncEstRY

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1959 - 1975



“Crootey Songo”
Bob Kaufman, 1959

And if I
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me

“I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies”
June Jordan, 1977

Instead of a rebel yell
I hear a rifle bark.
Instead of a whisky-soaked yee haw
I hear a window break
and children sobbing for a father
face down in a pool of blood.

“The N-Word”
Frank X. Walker, 2013

I have sown beside all waters in my day.
I planted deep, within my heart the fear
that wind or fowl would take the grain away.

“A Black Man Talks of Reaping”
Arna Bontemps, 1963

I sing of a new American
Separate from all others,
Yet enlarged and diminished by all others.

Pauli Murray, 1970

The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

“Ballad of Birmingham”
Dudley Randall, 1965
Dudley Randall founds Broadside Press, and the first poem it publishes is his “Ballad of Birmingham” about the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama church that killed four young girls.

Let there be no love poems written
until love can exist freely and
cleanly. Let Black People understand
that they are the lovers and the sons
of lovers and warriors and sons
of warriors [...]

“Black Art”
Amiri Baraka, 1969

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said "Die you little motherfucker" and
there are tapes to prove it.

Audre Lorde, 1974
Black Panthers, students, and younger children give the Black Power salute outside their “liberation school” in the Fillmore district of San Francisco on December 20, 1969.
The Black Panther Party forms in response to police brutality. It organizes social programs to improve the well-being of Black communities. Nonetheless, police brutality would continue to be an issue, and the following year poet Amiri Baraka is beaten and arrested during the Newark race riots. His presiding judge reads one of his poems in court and uses it as an incriminating factor in his sentencing.
Amiri Baraka is arrested and beaten by police in Newark in the July uprising.

All the stores will open if you will say the magic words.
The magic words are: Up against the wall
mother fucker
this is a stick up!

“Black People”
Amiri Baraka, December 1967

trane's horn had words in it
i know when i sleep sober & dream
those dreams i duck in the world
of sun & shadow.

“Did John's Music Kill Him?”
A. B. Spellman, 1973
Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, age 40, dies of liver cancer on July 17th.
Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press publishes Etheridge Knight’s first book of poems, Poems from Prison, while Knight finishes his sentence for armed robbery. Upon his release, Knight marries poet Sonia Sanchez.

we sat in June Bug's pad with the shades drawn
and the air thick with holy smoke. and we heard
the Lady sing Langston before we knew his name.

“For Langston Hughes”
Etheridge Knight, 1968

I'll never know about people--
if the soft thing in the stomach can be cut out--
because I missed all the wars--
but when I learned that non
violence kills you anyway
I wished
I wished I could do it I wished I

“King: April 4, 1968 (for Eva Ray)”
Gerald Barrax, 1980
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1967 portrait.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. King, his work, and his assassination continue to be important subjects in African American literature. In the coming decades, poets like Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Quincy Troupe, Gerald Barrax, Sonia Sanchez, and June Jordan will write about King.

Maya Angelou, 1970.
Maya Angelou publishes her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, to much acclaim. James Baldwin had repeatedly urged her to do so and only succeeded by using reverse psychology and telling her that it would be “just about impossible” to do. The book—named for a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem—would be nominated for the 1970 National Book Award.

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1899