Poems about Black Men

Nightmare Begins Responsibility by Michael S. Harper

‘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

‘Grandfather’ by Michael S. Harper describes the treatment Harper’s grandfather endured and alludes to racism within the United States more generally. 

Grandfather by Michael S. Harper Visual Representation

Incident by Countee Cullen

‘Incident’ by Countee Cullen describes a terrible incident from the poet’s youth that occurred when he was happily visiting Baltimore. 

Incident by Countee Cullen Visual Representation

The Poet by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘The Poet’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar depicts how the poet saw himself and the elements of his work that gained popularity during his lifetime.

The Poet by Paul Laurence Dunbar Visual Representation

Dream Variations by Langston Hughes

‘Dream Variations’ by Langston Hughes details two slightly different dreams a Black speaker has as he is confronted with the “white day.”

Dream Variations by Langston Hughes Visual Representation

As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

‘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.

As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes Visual Representation

Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen

‘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.

Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen Visual Representation

Dream Boogie by Langston Hughes

‘Dream Boogie’ by Langston Hughes is a poem about jazz, creativity, and the oppression of Black Americans. It was written during the Harlem Renaissance. 

Dream Boogie by Langston Hughes

Who Said It Was Simple by Audre Lorde

‘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.

Who Said It Was Simple by Audre Lorde Visual Representation

Reapers by Jean Toomer

‘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.

Reapers by Jean Toomer Visual Representation

November Cotton Flower by Jean Toomer

‘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. 

November Cotton Flower by Jean Toomer Visual Representation

Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni

‘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.

Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni Visual Representation

A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay

‘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. 

A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay Visual Representation

The Tropics in New York by Claude McKay

‘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. 

The Tropics in New York by Claude McKay Visual Representation

Tableau by Countee Cullen

‘Tableau’ by Countee Cullen is a powerful poem about two men, one black and one white, who appear to be romantic partners. 

Tableau by Countee Cullen Visual Representation

Atlantic City Waiter by Countee Cullen

‘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.

atlantic city waiter by countee cullen

Catch the Fire by Sonia Sanchez

‘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.

Catch the Fire by Sonia Sanchez Visual Representation

Amateur Fighter by Natasha Trethewey

‘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.

Amateur Fighter by Natasha Trethewey Visual Representation

Jack Johnson Does The Eagle Rock by Cornelius Eady

‘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.

Jack Johnson Does The Eagle Rock Visual Representation

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

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.

The Tradition Poem Visual Representation

Harriet Tubman by Eloise Greenfield

‘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.

Harriet Tubman by Eloise Greenfield Visual Representation

Everywhere Is Out of Town by Kevin Young

‘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.

Everywhere Is Out of Town by Kevin Young Visual Representation

Middle Passage by Robert Hayden

‘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.

Middle Passage by Robert Hayden Visual Representation

Beware: Do Not Read This Poem by Ishmael Reed

‘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.

Beware- Do Not Read This Poem by Ishmael Reed

The Slave Auction by Frances Harper

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’.

The Slave Auction by Frances Harper Visual Representation

The Black Man’s Burden by H. T. Johnson

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.

The Black Man’s Burden by H. T. Johnson Visual Representation

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