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African American Poets | Black Poets

African American Poets and their poems. A list of the top 100 most popular and best famous African American poets. Here are the best and most popular famous African American (Black) poets in history (with their best poetry).

Rank African American Poets
1 Maya Angelou
Angelou , Maya

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Pulitzer Prize-winning African American author and an important figure in the American Civil Rights.. American Poet

2 Langston Hughes
Hughes , Langston

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An American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and newspaper columnist.. American poet social activist novelist playwright and columnist

3 Phillis Wheatley
Wheatley , Phillis

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The first African American female writer to be published in the United States.. first African American poet

4 Alice Walker
Walker , Alice

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An American author and feminist.. American author poet and activist

5 Gwendolyn Brooks
Brooks , Gwendolyn

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Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American woman poet.. African-American poet; 30th US Poet Laureate

6 Nikki Giovanni
Giovanni , Nikki

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Nikki Giovanni is one of the best-known African-American poets who reached prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

7 Lucille Clifton
Clifton , Lucille

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An American poet from New York.. educator and Poets Laureate of Maryland

8 Imamu Amiri Baraka
Baraka , Imamu Amiri

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Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones October 7, 1934), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, is an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays, and music criticism. He is the author of numerous books of poetry and has taught at a number of universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN Open Book Award formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone.

9 Cornelius Eady
Eady , Cornelius

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Cornelius Eady (born 1954) is an American poet focusing largely on matters of race and society, particularly the trials of the African-American race in the United States. His poetry often centers on jazz and blues, family life, violence, and societal problems stemming from questions of race and class. His poetry is often praised for its simple and approachable language.

10 Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Harper , Frances Ellen Watkins

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825-February 22, 1911), was an African-American writer, lecturer, and political activist, who promoted abolition, civil rights, women's rights, and temperance. She helped found or held high office in several national progressive organizations. She is best remembered today for her poetry and fiction, which preached moral uplift and counseled the oppressed how to free themselves from their demoralized condition.

11 James Weldon Johnson
Johnson , James Weldon

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A leading American author, poet, and early civil rights activist.. author poet folklorist and civil rights leader

12 James A Emanuel
Emanuel , James A

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James Emanuel (born June 15, 1921 – September 28, 2013) was a poet and scholar from Alliance, Nebraska. Emanuel, who is ranked by some critics as one of the best and most neglected poets of the 20th century, published more than 300 poems, 13 individual books, an influential anthology of African American literature, an autobiography, and more. He is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, often read with musical accompaniment.

13 Arna Bontemps
Bontemps , Arna

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Arnaud "Arna" Wendell Bontemps (October 13, 1902 – June 4, 1973) was an African-American poet, novelist and librarian, and a noted member of the Harlem Renaissance .

14 Countee Cullen
Cullen , Countee

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Countee Cullen was one of the leading American poets of his time and one of the lights of the Harlem Renaissance.. American poet who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance

15 Rita Dove
Dove , Rita

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Rita Frances Dove is an American poet and author. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1993, the second African American to be appointed, and received a second special appointment in 1999. Dove is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.. American poet and author; US Poet Laureate

16 Jupiter Hammon
Hammon , Jupiter

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Jupiter Hammon (October 17, 1711 – before 1806) was a black poet who in 1761 became the first African-American writer to be published in the present-day United States. Additional poems and sermons were also published. Born into slavery, Hammon was never emancipated. He was living in 1790 at the age of 79, and died by 1806. A devout Christian, he is considered one of the founders of African-American literature .

17 Etheridge Knight
Knight , Etheridge

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Etheridge Knight was an African-American poet who made his name in 1968 with his debut volume, Poems from Prison. The book recalls in verse his eight-year-long sentence after his arrest for robbery in 1960

18 Tupac Shakur
Shakur , Tupac

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Tupac Amaru Shakur, known by his stage names 2Pac (or simply Pac) and Makaveli, was an American rapper. Shakur has sold over 75 million albums worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. In the United States alone he has sold 37.5 million records. Rolling Stone Magazine named him the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time.. African American rapper actor producer poet and black activist

19 Sherley Anne Williams
Anne Williams , Sherley

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Sherley Anne Williams (August 25, 1944—July 6, 1999) was born in Bakersfield, California and was an African-American poet. Many of her works tell stories about her life in the African-American community. When she was little her family picked cotton in order to get money. At the age of eight her father died of tuberculosis and when she was sixteen her mother died. In 1966 she earned her bachelors degree in English at what is now California State University at Fresno and she received her master's degree at Brown University in 1972. The following year (1973) she became a professor of English Literature at the University of California at San Diego. Her works include collections of poetry such as The Peacock Poems (1975), the novel Dessa Rose (1986), and two picture books. She also published the groundbreaking work Give Birth to Brightness: A Thematic Study of Neo-Black Literature in 1972.. African American poet novelist professor and social critic

20 Melvin B B. Tolson
B. Tolson , Melvin B

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Melvin Beaunorus Tolson (February 6, 1898 – August 29, 1966) was an American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician. His work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems. His work was influenced by his study of the Harlem Renaissance, although he spent nearly all of his career in Texas and Oklahoma .

21 Gwendolyn B Bennett
Bennett , Gwendolyn B

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Gwendolyn B. Bennett (July 8, 1902 – May 30, 1981) was an African-American writer who contributed to Opportunity, which chronicled cultural advancements in Harlem. Though often overlooked, she herself made considerable accomplishments in poetry and prose. She is perhaps best known for her short story "Wedding Day", which was published in the first issue of Fire!! .

22 Sterling Brown
Brown , Sterling

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Sterling Allen Brown (May 1, 1901 – January 13, 1989) was an African-American professor, author of works on folklore, poet and literary critic. He was interested chiefly in black culture of the Southern United States.. African American professor author of works on folklore poet and literary critic

23 Sterling A. Brown
Brown , Sterling A.

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Sterling Allen Brown (May 1, 1901 – January 13, 1989) was an African-American professor, author of works on folklore, poet and literary critic. He studied chiefly black culture of the Southern United States and was a full professor at Howard University for most of his career. He also had visiting professor stints at several other institutions, including Vassar College, New York University (NYU), Atlanta University, and Yale University .

24 Lorna Dee Cervantes
Cervantes , Lorna Dee

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Lorna Dee Cervantes (b. August 6, 1954, in San Francisco, California ) is an award-winning Chicana, Native American (Chumash ), feminist, activist poet who is considered one of the major Chicana poets of the past 40 years. She has been described by Alurista, as "probably the best Chicana poet active today." Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in 1954 in California. She grew up in San Jose, speaking English exclusively. This was strictly enforced by her parents, who allowed only English to be spoken at home by her and her brother. This was to avoid the racism that was occurring in her community at that time. Lorna Dee Cervantes was an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder until 2007. She considers herself "a Chicana writer, a feminist writer, a political writer" (Cervantes). Her collections of poetry, Emplumada, From the Cable of Genocide, Drive: The First Quartet and Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems are held in high esteem and have attracted numerous nominations and awards. She is currently the Regents Lecturer at UC Berkeley, California for the 2011/12 year. In an interview conducted by Sonia V. Gonzalez, the poet states that through writing and publishing, “I was trying to give back that gift that had saved me when I discovered, again, African-American women’s poetry. I was having this vision of some little Chicana in San Antonio [Texas] going, scanning the shelves, like I used to do, scanning the shelves for women’s names, or Spanish surnames, hoping she’ll pull it out, relate to it. So it was intentionally accessible poetry, intended to bridge that gap, that literacy gap.” Cervantes was actively involved in the publication of numerous Chicana/o writers from the 1970s onwards when she produced her own Chicana/o literary journal,MANGO "which was the first to publish Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Alberto Rios, Ray Gonzalez, Ronnie Burk, and Orlando Ramírez [co-editor]. Cervantes and MANGO also championed the early work of writers Gary Soto, José Montoya, José Montalvo, José Antonio Burciaga, and her personal favourite, Luís Omar Salinas"

25 Wanda Coleman
Coleman , Wanda

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Wanda Coleman (birth name, Wanda Evans) (born November 13, 1946) is an American poet. She is known as "the L.A. Blueswoman," and "the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles.". African-American poet

26 Jeffrey Daniels
Daniels , Jeffrey

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Jeffrey Daniels, African-American poet

27 Toi Derricotte
Derricotte , Toi

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Toi Derricotte (pronounced DARE-ah-cot ) (b. April 12, 1941 in Hamtramck, Michigan) is an American poet and a professor of writing at University of Pittsburgh.. African American poet

28 W E B Du Bois
Du Bois , W E B

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William Edward Burghardt " W. E. B. " Du Bois (pronounced / d u ' b z / doo- BOYZ ; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community. After graduating from Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

29 Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson
Dunbar Nelson , Alice Moore

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Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson (July 19, 1875 – September 18, 1935) was an American poet, journalist and political activist. Among the first generation born free in the South after the Civil War, she was one of the prominent African Americans involved in the artistic flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance. Her first husband was the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar ; she then married physician Henry A. Callis ; and last married Robert J. Nelson, a poet and civil rights activist.

30 Mari Evans
Evans , Mari

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Mari Evans (born July 16, 1923 in Toledo, Ohio) is an African-American poet, living in Indianapolis.. African American poet

31 Charlotte Forten Grimke
Forten Grimke , Charlotte

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Charlotte Bridges Forten Grimké (August 17, 1837 – July 23, 1914) was an African-American anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator .

32 Angelina Weld Grimké
Grimké , Angelina Weld

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Angelina Weld Grimké (February 27, 1880 – June 10, 1958) was an African-American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance ; she was one of the first African-American women to have a play publicly performed.

33 Charlotte Forten Grimké
Grimké , Charlotte Forten

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Charlotte Bridges Forten Grimké (August 17, 1837 – July 23, 1914) was an African-American anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator .

34 Michael S. Harper
Harper , Michael S.

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Michael Steven Harper (born March 18, 1938) is an American poet from Brooklyn, who was the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island from 1988 to 1993. He has published ten books of poetry, two of which - Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970) and Images of Kin (1977) - have been nominated for the National Book Award. A great deal of his poetry is influenced by jazz and history. Many of his poems have been included as important examples of African-American literature and jazz poetry in various anthologies. Harper often writes about his wife, Shirley (commonly referred to as "Shirl"), their children, and their ancestors, as well as friends and various black historical and cultural figures.

35 Helene Johnson
Johnson , Helene

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Helen Johnson, who was better known as Helene Johnson (1906–1995) was an African American poet during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a cousin of author Dorothy West.. African American poet during the Harlem Renaissance

36 Keorapetse Kgositsile
Kgositsile , Keorapetse

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Keorapetse William Kgositsile (b. September 19, 1938 in Johannesburg) is a South African poet and political activist, and was an influential member of the African National Congress in the 1960s and 1970s. He lived in exile in the United States from 1962 until 1975, the peak of his literary career. Kgositsile made extensive study of African-American literature and culture, becoming particularly interested in jazz. During the 1970s he was a central figure among African-American poets, encouraging interest in Africa as well as the practice of poetry as a performance art; Kgositsile was known for his readings in New York City jazz clubs. He was one of the first to bridge the gap between African poetry and Black poetry in the United States, and thus one of the first and most significant poets in the Pan-African movement.. South African poet and political activist

37 Paul Laurence Dunbar
Laurence Dunbar , Paul

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Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) was a seminal African American poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dunbar gained national recognition for his 1896 "Ode to Ethiopia", one poem in the collection Lyrics of Lowly Life.. African American poet novelist and playwright

38 Haki R Madhubuti
Madhubuti , Haki R

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Haki R. Madhubuti (born Don Luther Lee on February 23, 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States ) is an African-American author, educator, and poet .

39 Haki R. Madhubuti
Madhubuti , Haki R.

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Haki R. Madhubuti (born Don Luther Lee on February 23, 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States ) is an African-American author, educator, and poet .

40 George Moses Horton
Moses Horton , George

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George Moses Horton (1797–1884) was an African-American poet.. African American poet

41 Dudley Randall
Randall , Dudley

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Dudley Randall (January 14, 1914 - August 5, 2000) was an African American poet and poetry publisher from Detroit, Michigan. He founded a publishing company called Broadside Press in 1965, which published many leading African American writers. Randall's most famous poem is "The Ballad of Birmingham", written during the 1960s, about the 1963 bombing of the church Martin Luther King, Jr. belonged to in Birmingham, Alabama. Randall's poetry is characterized by simplicity and realism.. African American poet and publisher

42 Ishmael Reed
Reed , Ishmael

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Ishmael Scott Reed (born 22 February 1938) is an American poet, essayist, and novelist. A prominent African-American literary figure, Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture, and highlighting political and cultural oppression.. American poet essayist playwright and novelist

43 Sonia Sanchez
Sanchez , Sonia

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Sonia Sanchez is an African American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. She has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books. She was a 1993 Pew Fellowships in the Arts.. African American poet; associated with the Black Arts Movement

44 Gil Scott-Heron
Scott-Heron , Gil

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Gilbert "Gil" Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011) was an American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and '80s, and for his collaborative works with musician Brian Jackson. His collaborative efforts with Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. His own term for himself was "bluesologist", which he defined as "a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues". The music of these albums, most notably Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.. American soul musician and jazz poet

45 Tracy K. Smith
Smith , Tracy K.

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Tracy K. Smith (born April 16, 1972) is an African-American poet and educator. She has published three collections of poetry. Her collection Life on Mars won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. About this collection, Joel Brouwer wrote in 2011: "Smith shows herself to be a poet of extraordinary range and ambition....As all the best poetry does, Life on Mars first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled."

46 Wole Soyinka
Soyinka , Wole

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Wole Soyinka was born on 13 July 1934 at Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. After preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, where, later, in 1973, he took his doctorate. During the six years spent in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London 1958-1959. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller bursary and returned to Nigeria to study African drama. At the same time, he taught drama and literature at various universities in Ibadan, Lagos, and Ife, where, since 1975, he has been professor of comparative literature. In 1960, he founded the theatre group, "The 1960 Masks" and in 1964, the "Orisun Theatre Company", in which he has produced his own plays and taken part as actor.

47 Lucy Terry
Terry , Lucy

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Lucy Terry (c.1730-1821) is the author of the oldest known work of literature by an African American.. African American poet; author of the oldest known work of literature by an African American

48 Melvin B. Tolson
Tolson , Melvin B.

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Melvin Beaunorus Tolson (February 6, 1898 – August 29, 1966) was an American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician. His work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems. His work was influenced by his study of the Harlem Renaissance, although he spent nearly all of his career in Texas and Oklahoma .

49 Margaret Walker
Walker , Margaret

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Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander (July 7, 1915 – November 30, 1998) was an African-American poet and writer. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, she wrote as Margaret Walker. One of her best-known poems is For My People.. African American writer

50 Angelina Weld Grimke
Weld Grimke , Angelina

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Angelina Weld Grimké (February 27, 1880 – June 10, 1958) was an African-American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance ; she was one of the first African-American women to have a play publicly performed.

51 Saul Williams
Williams , Saul

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Saul Stacey Williams (born February 29, 1972) is an American poet, writer, actor and musician known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip hop and for his leading role in the 1998 independent film Slam.. African American singer musician poet writer and actor

52 Kevin Young
Young , Kevin

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Kevin Young (born 8 November 1970 Lincoln, Nebraska) is an American poet and teacher of poetry. Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (1992–1994), and received his MFA from Brown University. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group, The Dark Room Collective. He is heavily influenced by the poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson and the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat.. American poet and teacher