We tell stories that matter.

Manual RedEye

We tell stories that matter.

Manual RedEye

We tell stories that matter.

Manual RedEye

BHM: Black Poets That Should Be Recognized

BHM%3A+Black+Poets+That+Should+Be+Recognized
Isabella Edghill

Throughout history, America has silenced the voices of Black authors and poets. In classrooms across the country the English curriculum is full of white and predominantly male authors and works that lack any kind of diversity or inclusive perspective on the world. However, throughout history there have been just as many successful, influential and important poets and authors that are not included in the curriculum that is taught to students through the public school system. It is time for writers of all backgrounds to be heard, but especially the voices of many brilliant Black poets that have been silenced for hundreds of years. 

Maya Angelou a well known Black female poet. She was an American poet, author and civil rights activist. Angelou became an icon of modern poetry not only for her written works but also because of her presence during her performances. Her voice when she performed was extremely rich and moving to the audiences who listened. Her career really began with her poem “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” which was published in 1970. After her flourishing career, Angelou was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011. Her work quickly became a symbol for strength during times of struggle and overcoming adversity. 

Langston Hughes was an American poet and social activist born in 1901. He passed away at the age of 68 in 1969 after an extremely successful career. His most famous work, “Harlem,” properly represents his influence as a leader of the Harlem renaissance in the 1920s. He is known as an innovator of “Jazz Poetry.” Hughes’ works were rhythmic, vibrant representations of black life and culture. Throughout his career, he worked to avoid stereotypes while still portraying the ups and downs of the black working class.

When asked what his poetry was about, Hughes said that, “…people up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten…” Hughes’ work encapsulates and expresses both successes and failures, the highs and lows of a working class life. 

Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in US history, at just 22, she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 inauguration of President Biden. Gorman was also appointed the first National Youth Poet Laureate. An activist, her work focuses on oppression, racial issues, feminism, and marginalization. Her career really began to take off after President Biden’s inauguration. Her poem was recognized nationally and critically acclaimed. In the following months, 2 of her books became best-sellers. Gorman also delivered a poem at Super Bowl LV in 2021, a month after the inauguration. 

As a child, Gorman was challenged with a speech impediment as well as an auditory processing disorder, both of which she has overcome over time, allowing her to be able to perform in front of millions. In an interview with The Washington Post book critic, Ron Charles, “My hope is that my poem will represent a moment of unity for our country… with my words, I’ll be able to speak to a new chapter and era for our nation,” Gorman said. At such a young age, Gorman has already inspired millions of Americans across generations with her works encouraging unity and equality.

The first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Alice Walker is an American social activist, poet and novelist. Her poetry is most well known for its rich look into African American culture. Walker came from a family of passionate story tellers, and the lives of her parents and grandparents impacted much of her work by leading her to explore human transformation and what leads people to be the way they are. Her most well known work is her novel, “The Color Purple,” however she also has countless collections of poetry that feature many of the same concepts and themes. 

At times, Walker gained criticism for the way her works challenge the norm. For example, Walker claimed the term “Womanist” as a word for a strong black feminist or feminist of color.  While some felt that this term separated black women from the feminist movement, Walker stated that the word is not for separation but rather for Black women to honor strong female leaders of color that came before them. Her works pushed for a change in the norm and called for acceptance and the equality of all. 

Paul Lawrence Dunbar was born in Ohio to two formerly enslaved people in 1872. He is known as one of the first influential Black poets in American literature. In addition to his works of poetry, Dunbar also wrote many novels, essays and short stories. Despite the fact that his career was relatively short, he became a prolific writer. His works are known for their attention to detail in both his formal poetry and his dialect poem. Despite his many works of dialect poetry, Dunbar didn’t limit his works only to the African American dialect, as he did not want to continue the stereotype that African Americans were uneducated. 

Dunbar was the first African American to earn national recognition and to be widely accepted by critics. He was once called by The New York Times, “a true singer of the people- white or black.” Dunbar’s works have influenced many other authors and poets such as William Grant Still and Maya Angelou, who named her most famous work “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” after a line in one of his poems. 

James Baldwin is often recognized as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. His works addressed complex issues of race with a clear yet angry attitude that up until that point was fairly uncommon. He also included queer themes in some of his stories which at the time were extremely controversial. 

Baldwin’s first published collection of essays mainly consisted of commentary on the culture of film and literature at the time. A little bit later in his career, Baldwin moved back to the United States after having been primarily living in Europe for several years. He became an active participant in the civil rights movement. A lot of Baldwin’s works are rooted in religion and spirituality while also facing different aspects of racism simultaneously. This religious influence likely stems from his stepfather being a preacher, as well as his time preaching in a small Pentecostal church after school from ages 14-17. 

Yona Harvey is a writer and poet from Ohio who in addition to her poetry and writing, she is also an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has written for Marvel Comics. She was one of the two first Black women to have written for Marvel. Her work focuses on the life experiences of Black women in America. Her work spans across many genres. 

Her artist statement describes her work as something that expresses the “diverse lives and experiences of Black American women through literature…the visibility and invisibility of Black women, our mental health and self-care, and the evidence of our imaginations in society as manifested in our hair, clothing, speech, parenting, decisions not to parent, and interactions with other women.” 

As well as her works as a poet, she has also dedicated lots of her time to working with teenagers writing about different mental health issues. Harvey received the inaugural Lucille Clifton Legacy Award in poetry from St. Mary’s College and was awarded with the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2022. 

Every voice deserve to be heard.

About the Contributors
Maddy Wilson, Staffer
Maddy Wilson is a staffer for Manual RedEye. You can contact her at [email protected].
Isabella Edghill, Webmaster
Isabella Edghill is Webmaster for Manual RedEye this year. She enjoys reading and playing the violin, and is passionate about exploring issues around diversity, identity and empowerment. You can contact her at [email protected].
Leave a Comment
Donate to Manual RedEye
$1005
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Donations are collected through The Publishers, duPont Manual High School’s booster club for J&C. Your donation will support the student journalists of duPont Manual High School. Your contribution will provide equipment and cover annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Manual RedEye
$1005
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

Any comments that are attributed, related and meaningful to the story will be approved. We reserve the right to decline anonymous comments.
All Manual RedEye Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *