Skip to Main Content

Black American Poets and Poetry

A guide compiled for Black History Month 2022


This guide borrows its timeline from Kevin Young's Library of America anthology, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, which identifies eight eras of African American poetry

The guide is also indebted to other recent anthologies such as Before Harlem: An Anthology of African American Literature from the Long Nineteenth Century and The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.

The links to information about poets and to poems available for online reading in this guide take visitors to the websites of the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets, with just three exceptions. The early poems "Bars Fight" by Lucy Terry and "The Grave of the Slave" by Sarah Louisa Forten are made available through PBS and respectively. Information about the poet Aja Monet comes from Wikipedia. For contemporary poets, links are also provided to poet websites where available.

Poet portraits, when not shown on book covers, are taken from Wikimedia Commons. Public domain portraits are not available of all the poets featured in this guide.

The "Spotlight on Black LGBTQ+ Poetry" was created by nicholae cline, who also contributed to the selection of contemporary Black American poets on page eight.