April is National Poetry Month: Let’s Celebrate Black Poets

April 8, 2021

African American poetry predates the written words linked to our rich oral tradition from the mother country Africa. Black poems are inextricably linked to the experience of African American through their history in America from slavery to segregation and the equal rights movement. Black poetry also draws its inspiration from musical traditions such as gospel, blues, jazz and rap. The earliest known Black American poets were Jupiter Hammon (1711-1800), Lucy Terry (1730-1821) and Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784). Hammon, the first African American to publish a poem, writes “An Evening Though” about salvation in a Methodist hymn. Wheatley wrote poems that reflected on religion, patriotism and liberation. As an educated slave, Wheatley published a collection of poems in 1773 on religion and morals.

Today, we salute our local poets along with Amanda Gorman (pictured) as the first and youngest African American National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. Gorman presented her poem The Hill We Climb at the Inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.

Black poetry continues to inspire as well as give us hope for a better tomorrow!