Famous African-American Poets

Famous African-American Poets With a Tremendous Influence

A list of a few famous award wining poets of African-American literature.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2018
The African-American culture is interesting and has its own certain distinctive characteristics as well. Theirs is a rich literature that is created in the United States, but is written by writers who primarily belong to the African origins. In the ancient times, the poets focused on certain subjects that were reflected in their poems.
The poems generally spoke about issues such as slavery before the American Civil War. Today, they focus more on culture, music, and other such themes. Over time, there have been certain writers and poets who have carved a niche for themselves in the world of literature.
Phillis Wheatley
Phillis had a tough beginning to her life, when she had to resort to being a slave at the tender age of 7. The family who she was sold to, as a slave, helped her with her education. She was so passionate about reading the Bible, after she was taught to read. She had a liking for literature, especially the works of John Milton and Alexander Pope.
She was also fond of the Greek and Latin classics of Virgil, Ovid, Homer and Terence. The works of these great masters had inspired her to write poems. Many of her poems centered on famous personalities. Unlike the other African poets, most of her poems lacked concern over slavery.
Gwendolyn Brooks
This famous poet published her first book 'A Street in Bronzeville', in the year 1945. She was the first African-American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her second book, 'Annie Allen'.
Her writing career took off in the year 1962, when she was invited by John F. Kennedy, to read at a poetry festival the same year. Most of her works were based on the struggles of the people of her community. In 1968, she was made the Poet Laureate of Illinois. She was also the recipient of many more prestigious awards.
Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni's early tryst with poetry began, when she got inspired to write due to the civil rights and black power movements. This resulted in her collections, 'Black Feeling' and 'Black Talk'.
She also wrote a book titled 'Love Poems' which was written in the memory of Tupac Shakur, who she greatly admired. Her album 'The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection' found her a nomination at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards.
Sonia Sanchez
Sonia Sanchez had a strong background in creative writing. She is also one amongst the most famous African-American poets to be found associated with the Black Arts Movement. She was also the recipient of the P.E.N. Writing Award in the year 1969. This was followed by many other prestigious awards.
Maya Angelou
This talented poet is renowned for her autobiographies and poems. She was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her book, 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie'.
She was even invited to recite her poem, 'On the Pulse of Morning', at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in the year 1993. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"  is a popular autobiography, in which she openly writes about the aspects of her personal life. She was an active writer, and was even involved in conducting lectures at prominent universities.
Dudley Randall
This famous poet wrote his most popular poem, 'The Ballad of Birmingham', in the 1960s. His interest in poetry began from his school days. His very first poem to be published was seen in the Detroit Free Press. This was only at the age of 13. Some of his other well-known works include, 'A Poet is Not a Jukebox' and 'Booker T'.
Naomi Long Madgett
Madgett had her first brush with creative writing at an early age. She published her first book, 'Songs to a Phantom Nightingale' at the age of 17. Her poems, which centered on the struggles that were faced by the blacks and about racism, soon attracted attention from all over. Some of her other famous works include 'Midway' and 'One and the Many'.
These poets have contributed a lot to the English literature. Their great works have always had a great influence on the society, and they still do.