Poems about Oppression

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

Exile by Julia Alvarez

‘Exile’ by Julia Alvarez is a narrative depiction of the poet’s childhood memories of leaving the Dominican Republic for the United States.

Exile by Julia Alvarez Visual Representation

To a Dark Girl by Gwendolyn Bennett

‘To a Dark Girl’ by Gwendolyn Bennett is a moving and inspiring poem that seeks to uplift Black girls and women and remind them of their beauty and strength. 

To a Dark Girl by Gwendolyn Bennett Visual Representation

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo

‘An American Sunrise’ by Joy Harjo is a powerful poem about Native American culture written by the current Poet Laureate of the United States. The poem explores the struggles of the poet’s community as well as the successes and celebrations. 

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo Visual Representation

Live Your Life by Chief Tecumseh

‘Live Your Life’ by Chief Tecumseh is an easy-to-read and powerful poem. It was written with the intention of sharing the poet’s beliefs about how to live life and embrace death without fear.

Live Your Life by Chief Tecumseh Visual Representation

Advice to Women by Eunice de Souza

‘Advice to Women’ by Eunice de Souza is a clever poem that suggests women should own a cat in order to understand relationships. 

Advice to Women by Eunice de Souza Visual Representation

To Ireland in the Coming Times by William Butler Yeats

‘To Ireland in the Coming Times’ by William Butler Yeats is dedicated to the poet’s impact on Ireland’s political, social, and cultural landscape. It contains the poet’s beliefs about the nature of his verse.

To Ireland in the Coming Times by William Butler Yeats Visual Representation

Freedom by Rabindranath Tagore

‘Freedom’ by Rabindranath Tagore is a powerful and effective poem about freedom. The speaker spends the seventeen lines of the poem describing the kind of freedom he hopes his country will find.

Freedom by Rabindranath Tagore Visual Representation

Anniversary by Louise Glück

‘Anniversary’ by Louise Glück contains the words of a cold male speaker to his female partner. These lines, taking place on their anniversary, convey a troubling relationship dynamic.

Anniversary by Louise Glück Visual Representation

The Vagabond by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘The Vagabond’ by Robert Louis Stevenson is a poem about one speaker’s desire to live a life close to nature and far from the rules of contemporary society. 

The Vagabond by Robert Louis Stevenson 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

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

Subway Wind by Claude McKay

‘Subway Wind’ by Claude McKay is a beautiful and tragic poem. In it, the speaker describes a trapped city wind longing for the freedom of the seaside. 

Subway Wind by Claude McKay Visual Representation

The Garden by H.D.

‘The Garden’ by H.D. is a thoughtful poem about oppression. The speaker uses natural imagery in order to depict oppression during her lifetime. 

The Garden by H.D. Visual Representation

One Girl by Sappho

‘One Girl’ by Sappho is a beautiful and moving poem. In the two short stanzas, readers can explore imagery Sappho relates to marriage and the loss of freedom for a young woman. 

One Girl by Sappho Visual Representation

Daystar by Rita Dove

‘Daystar’ by Rita Dove is a powerful and moving poem. It describes a mother’s life and the only moment of peace she has throughout her entire day.

Daystar by Rita Dove Visual Representation

Show It At the Beach by Shel Silverstein

‘Show It At the Beach’ by Shel Silverstein addresses taboos in contemporary society. Specifically, the poem considers when nudity is appropriate and when it isn’t (on the beach). 

Show it at the beach by shel silverstein

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

Two Women by Marcus Wilcox

‘Two Women’ by Marcus Wilcox is a thoughtful and complex poem about identity. The speaker spends the text discussing the lives of two different women.

two women by marcus wilcox

Not My Business by Niyi Osundare

‘Not My Business’ by Niyi Osundare is a powerful, satirical poem that explores the consequences of staying silent in the face of oppression.

Not My Business by Niyi Osundare Visual Representation

Parade’s End by Daljit Nagra

‘Parade’s End’ was published in the British poet Daljit Nagra’s debut collection “Look We Have Coming to Dover!” published in 2007. This poem taps on the themes of racism and the suffering of Asian immigrants in the UK in the 20th century.

Parade’s End by Daljit Nagra 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

The Harlem Dancer by Claude McKay

‘The Harlem Dancer’ by Claude McKay is a thoughtful poem about a dancer’s inner life. It speaks on the duality of what people see and what people experience.

The harlem dancer by claude mckay

Harlem Shadows by Claude McKay

‘Harlem Shadows’ by Claude McKay memorably addresses the lives of Black sex workers in Harlem. The poet describes their experience while also acknowledging their strength.

harlem shadows by claude mckay

10 Incredible Poems of the Black Lives Matter Movement

On this list, readers will find ten incredible poems inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Some celebrate Black history, identity, and love while others mourn the loss of countless men and women, like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Incredible Poems of the Black Lives Matter Movement Visual Representation

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