The African-American culture is unique, with its own distinctive characteristics. This community has played a huge role in the overall development of every facet of the world including arts, science, music, history, and literature. In history, works of African-American poets reflected social issues like social discrimination, racism, slavery, and the civil war. Today, it has transformed into a full-fledged genre that concentrates on lighter issues like music, emotions, and contemporary social events. Over the course of time, a few poets of African-American descent created their own niche in the literary community.
Phillis Wheatley (1753 - 1784)
Phillis Wheatley was one of the pioneer African-American poet. She was born in Gambia, Senegal, in the year 1753, and was enslaved at the tender age of 8. She was brought to America in a ship named 'Phillis', and was purchased by the 'Wheatley' family of Boston. This tells us the precise story about her name. The poem that she wrote about the death of an evangelical preacher encouraged her to write more poems.
Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967)
James Langston Hughes was an African-American poet, playwright, novelist, columnist, and short story writer. He was born in Joplin, Missouri, in the year 1902. Langston Hughes started to write poems at the age of 13. He is best known for his works during the Harlem Renaissance and his writing, 'Harlem was in Vogue'. His first poetry collection, 'The Weary Blues' was published in the year 1926. He played a huge role in garnering recognition for his community, and giving it the status that it possesses today.
Arna Bontemps (1902 - 1973)
Arna Bontemps was an honored member of the Harlem Renaissance. He was born in the city of Alexandria, Louisiana, in the year 1902. He began writing when he was a college student, and soon after, authored several books for children. Later, he collaborated with the contemporary poet Langston Hughes to co-author several books on African-American culture.
Dudley Randall (1914 - 2000)
Dudley Randall was born in the year 1914 in Washington DC. He showed keen interest in poetry since his early childhood. His very first poem appeared in the Detroit Free Press, when he was merely thirteen years of age. 'Ballad of Birmingham' is one of his famous poems which he wrote as a reaction to the 1963 bombing on a Baptist church. Some of his famous works include 'Booker T. and W.E.B.', 'A poet is not a Jukebox', and 'The Profile on the Pillow'.
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 - 2000)
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, in the year 1917. Brooks' first book of poetry, 'A Street in Bronzeville', was published in the year 1945. She was the author of more than 20 books during her 50 years career as a poet. Some of her famous books include 'Riot', 'In The Mecca', and 'The Bean Eaters'. Her book 'Annie Allen' won her the Pulitzer Prize. She was nominated for many other honorable awards.
Maya Angelou (Born: 1928)
Maya Angelou was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, in the year 1928. She has been called 'America's most visible black female autobiographer'. Best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes of the book 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie'. Her book of poetry 'I Shall Not Be Moved' concentrates on racism while 'Phenomenal Women' deals with the place of women in the early 21st century.
Ishmael Reed (Born: 1938)
Ishmael Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the year 1938. He is a controversial poet, essayist, and novelist, who is known for his satirical poems that challenged American political and cultural oppressions. His first novel 'The Freelance Pallbearers' was published in the year 1963. His book 'Conjure' was nominated for the famous Pulitzer Prize, and he was also a finalist for the National Book Award, twice.
Nikki Giovanni (Born: 1943)
Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the year 1943. She is a Grammy nominated poet, writer, and activist. She is the author of more than 17 books of poetry. Her work is often focused on the quest of social equality and black freedom movements. As a result, her first collection to be published in the year 1968 was named 'Black Feeling, Black Talk'. Many of her books are available in the spoken word recordings, including the famous 'Truth Is On Its Way'. She is a survivor of lung cancer and is currently teaching at Virginia Tech.
African-American poets were responsible for creating a major wave of revolutionary thoughts, that later proved to be the cornerstone in the development of today's social stratification.