This website does readability filtering of other pages. All styles, scripts, forms and ads are stripped. If you want your website excluded or have other feedback, use this form.

10 Poems by African-American Poets | JSTOR Daily

Skip to content

Arts & Culture

10 Poems by African-American Poets

Poems by African-American poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Kwame Dawes, Rita Dove, Langston Hughes, Tyehimba Jess, Kevin Young, and more.

Poets (from left to right) Rita Dove, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kevin Young, Tyehimba Jess, and Langston Hughes Photos via Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Flickr/Burns Library, Boston College, Kevin Young, Tyehimba Jess, Wikimedia Commons. Illustration by ITHAKA Design/Shubham Pokharel. By: The Editors February 2, 2018 February 1, 2018 2 minutes Share Tweet Email

As Langston Hughes pointed out in his famous essay “200 Years of American Negro Poetry,” “Poets and versifiers of African descent have been publishing poetry on American shores since the year 1746 when a slave woman named Lucy Terry penned a rhymed description of an Indian attack on the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts.”

He went on to write, “art is to be an intensification or enlargement of life, or to give adequate comment on what living is like in the poet’s own time.” Here are ten poets, from Gwendolyn Brooks and Hughes himself, to contemporary writers like Kevin Young and Tyehimba Jess, who intensify life with every line:

“Ode,” Elizabeth Alexander 

“Women Writers’ Workshop,” Tara Betts

“Old Mary,” Gwendolyn Brooks 

“Peach Picking,” Kwame Dawes

“The First Book,” Rita Dove

“After Birth,” Camille T. Dungy

“Do any black children grow up casual?,” Harmony Holiday 

“Blues on a Box,” Langston Hughes

“Blind Boone’s Pianola Blues,” Tyehimba Jess

“I Hope It Rains at My Funeral,” Kevin Young

More poetry available for free PDF download:

Winter Poems
Flower Poems
Love Poems
Nature Poems
Sylvia Plath Poems 

Share Tweet Email Have a correction or comment about this article?
Please contact us. African AmericansBlack History MonthBlack American Literature ForumBOMBCallalooHarvard ReviewPoetryThe Georgia ReviewTransitionWomen's Studies Quarterly


JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

200 Years of American Negro Poetry By: Langston Hughes Transition, No. 75/76, The Anniversary Issue: Selections from Transition, 1961-1976 (1997), pp. 90-96 Indiana University Press on behalf of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University Ode By: Elizabeth Alexander Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 23, No. 3, Poetry Issue (Autumn, 1989), p. 495 African American Review (St. Louis University) Women Writers' Workshop By: Tara Betts Women's Studies Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3/4, Women, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System (Fall - Winter, 2004), pp. 285-287 The Feminist Press at the City University of New York Old Mary By: Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry, Vol. 94, No. 6 (Sep., 1959), p. 373 Poetry Foundation Peach Picking By: Kwame Dawes The Georgia Review, Vol. 59, No. 1 (SPRING 2005), p. 49 Georgia Review The First Book By: Rita Dove Callaloo, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Summer, 2008), p. 753 The Johns Hopkins University Press After Birth By: Camille T. Dungy Callaloo, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Summer, 2011), p. 788 The Johns Hopkins University Press Do any black children grow up casual? By: Harmony Holiday Poetry, Vol. 203, No. 2 (NOVEMBER 2013), p. 157 Poetry Foundation Blues on a Box By: Langston Hughes Poetry, Vol. 69, No. 5 (Feb., 1947), pp. 248-249 Poetry Foundation Blind Boone's Pianola Blues By: Tyehimba Jess BOMB, No. 133 (Fall 2015), p. 77 New Art Publications I Hope It Rains at My Funeral By: Kevin Young Harvard Review, No. 35 (2008), pp. 158-159 Harvard Review

Join Our Newsletter

More Stories

Language & Literature

The Hidden Life of Modal Verbs

A linguist explains why we get so distracted by the fiery language of politics, while ignoring urgent information reported by scientists. Art & Art History

Visiting “Soul of a Nation”

A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum asks: Is there a Black aesthetic? Art & Art History

Marking the Grave of the First African American Landscape Artist

Robert S. Duncanson was among the first African American artists to gain international fame. And yet his grave has stayed unmarked for 146 years. Performing Arts

Superfans in the Nineteenth Century

Americans have long obsessed over their favorite musicians.

Recent Posts

  1. The Hidden Life of Modal Verbs
  2. Visiting “Soul of a Nation”
  3. Marking the Grave of the First African American Landscape Artist
  4. It’s Time to Reinvent Food Waste!
  5. Thanksgiving Stories