‘Dear John, Dear Coltrane’ by Michael S. Harper describes musician John Coltrane’s life and alludes to the ways in which it influenced the poet’s work.
‘Nightmare Begins Responsibility’ by Michael S. Harper is an unforgettable poem in which the speaker describes the loss of a child. While struggling to trust the doctors caring for his newborn son, the speaker watches on helplessly.
‘Grandfather’ by Michael S. Harper describes the treatment Harper’s grandfather endured and alludes to racism within the United States more generally.
‘Incident’ by Countee Cullen describes a terrible incident from the poet’s youth that occurred when he was happily visiting Baltimore.
‘The Poet’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar depicts how the poet saw himself and the elements of his work that gained popularity during his lifetime.
‘Dream Variations’ by Langston Hughes details two slightly different dreams a Black speaker has as he is confronted with the “white day.”
‘As I Grew Older’ by Langston Hughes is about breaking through the “wall” that racism constructs. The speaker, a Black man from the African American community, spends the poem discussing the light of forgotten dreams he’s newly determined to attain.
‘Yet Do I Marvel’ by Countee Cullen is a poem about faith. No matter the darkness the speaker sees in the world, he maintains his faith in his own role in God’s plan.
‘This Is Not a Small Voice’ by Sonia Sanchez is a well-loved poem that celebrates the power of Black men, women, and children, as well as their communities.
‘Dream Boogie’ by Langston Hughes is a poem about jazz, creativity, and the oppression of Black Americans. It was written during the Harlem Renaissance.
‘Who Said It Was Simple’ by Audre Lorde is a powerful poem about the inequalities in various civil rights movements during the poet’s lifetime.
‘Reapers’ by Jean Toomer is a thoughtful poem about oppression. It is depicted through a very poetic and memorable metaphor depicting field workers and a mower.
‘November Cotton Flower’ by Jean Toomer is a powerful extended metaphor for the lives of Black men, women, and children in the southern United States. It alludes to slavery and the hope that the Civil Rights Movement presented.
‘Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio’ by James Wright is a poem about working-class men attending a football game to watch their sons.
‘Rosa Parks’ by Nikki Giovanni is a poem about activism and the importance of remembering important moments in African American history. The poem pays tribute to the heroic actions of the Pullman Porters who spearheaded the civil rights movement and forever changed history for the African American community.
‘A Small Needful Fact’ by Ross Gay is a powerful poem that presents an image of hope and beauty after a loss. The poem addresses the legacy of Eric Garner and how one might still find his presence in the world.
‘The Tropics in New York’ by Claude McKay is a thoughtful poem about homesickness. It takes place in New York and includes a speaker’s longing for the elements of his home.
‘Tableau’ by Countee Cullen is a powerful poem about two men, one black and one white, who appear to be romantic partners.
‘Atlantic City Waiter’ by Countee Cullen is a deeply thoughtful poem. In it, Cullen describes the actions, strength, and pride of an Atlantic City waiter.
‘Affirmative Action Blues’ appears in Elizabeth Alexander’s Body of Life (1996). This poem is about the incident of police brutality on Rodney King in 1991.
‘Catch the Fire’ by Sonia Sanchez is a thoughtful and inspiring poem. In it, the poet encourages readers to catch their fire and use their passion to fuel their lives.
‘Amateur Fighter’ is a poem about a speaker thinking of her father, a boxer. His painful journey inside and outside the ring is portrayed through this piece.
‘Jack Johnson Does The Eagle Rock’ appears in Cornelius Eady’s poetry collection Victims of the Latest Dance Craze. This poem is an allusion to the great American boxer Jack Johnson and how he was denied a ticket on the Titanic.
The Tradition is the titular poem from Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown’s poetry collection. It brings to light the maltreatment of African Americans in the present US, while relating it to the past.
‘Harriet Tubman’ by Eloise Greenfield is a moving and simple piece of poetry about Tubman’s life. The poet explores her bravery and determination in the face of impossible odds.
‘Everywhere Is Out of Town’ is a poetic tribute to The James Brown band, popularly knows as the J.B.’s. The poem was first published in a poetry journal in 1993.
‘Middle Passage’ by Robert Hayden is a narrative poem written in the 1940s. It describes the happenings of the Atlantic Slave Trade, as told from the perspective of several white narrators.
‘Beware: Do Not Read This Poem’ by Ishmael Reed is a thoughtful poem about culture and how language is used to tell stories. The poem warns against becoming too consumed within one method of storytelling.
Have you ever imagined what it felt like observing innocent lives being traded at the slave auction? It is vividly portrayed through the eyes of Frances Harper in her poem ‘The Slave Auction’.
What happens when Kipling’s ideas in ‘The White Man’s Burden’ pierce the soul of the blacks? Then writers like H. T. Johnson pen down ‘The Black Man’s Burden’ in response to chauvinism, white supremacy, and racism.