Black Poetry Day
Black Poetry Day was established in 1985 and is observed annually on October 17. This is a day to honor past and present Black poets. Black Poetry Day celebrates the importance of black heritage and literacy and the contributions made by black poets. It is a day to appreciate Black authors.
Jupiter Hammon, the first published Black poet in the United States, was born in Long Island, New York, on October 17, 1711. In honor of Hammon’s birth, we celebrate the contributions of all African Americans to the world of poetry.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Pick up some poetry written by black poets and use #BlackPoetryDay to post on social media.
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Send a card for any occasion from our Black History collection. We have a greeting card design featuring poet, Maya Angelou that's perfect for a poet or any friend in your life.
PARTIAL TIMELINE OF BLACK POETS' HISTORY
1711: Jupiter Hammon, the first published Black poet in the United States, was born in Long Island, New York, on October 17, 1711
1773: Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is published.
1829: George Moses Horton's The Hope of Liberty is published.
1854: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper's volume of poetry Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects is published.
1864: Frances E. W. Harper's poem "Bury Me in a Free Land" is published in Liberator, January 14.
1893: Paul Laurence Dunbar's first collection of poems Oak and Ivy is published.
1895: Alice Moore's Violets and other tales is published.
1896: Dunbar's Lyrics of Lowly Life are published.
1900: "Lift Every Voice and Sing," written by James Weldon Johnson, is performed for Booker T. Washington.
1905: John Johnson, brother of James Weldon Johnson, sets "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to music.
1912: Claude McKay's Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads are published.
1913: Fenton Johnson's first volume A Little Dreaming is published.
1918: Georgia Douglas Johnson's The Heart of a Woman is published. "The Heart of a Woman."
1919: The NAACP adopts "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as "The Negro National Anthem."
1919: Claude McKay's "If We Must Die" is published in the July issue of Liberator.
1921: Langston Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" is published in the June issue of The Crisis magazine.
1922: The Book of American Negro Poetry, edited by James Weldon Johnson, is published.
1922: Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows is published.
1923: Jean Toomer's Cane is published.
1925: The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke, is published.
1925: Countee Cullen's first volume Color is published.
1926: Langston Hughes's first volume The Weary Blues is published by Knopf.
1926: Langston Hughes's "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" appears in the June issue of The Nation.
1932: Sterling A. Brown's Southern Road is published.
1937: Margaret Walker's "For My People" is published in the November 1937 issue of Poetry magazine.
1942: Margaret Walker's For My People, recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, is published.
1945: Gwendolyn Brooks's A Street in Bronzeville is published by Harper & Row.
1945: A version of Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage” is published in the journal Phylon (Vol. 6, No. 3 3rd Qtr., 1945).
1945: Another version of Hayden’s “Middle Passage” is published in Cross Section 1945.
1947: Melvin B. Tolson named poet laureate of Liberia.
1950: Gwendolyn Brooks is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her volume Annie Allen (1949).
1959: Gwendolyn Brooks's "We Real Cool" is published in the September issue of Poetry magazine.
1962: Third published version of Hayden’s “Middle Passage” is published in his volume A Ballad of Remembrance.
1963: Blues People: Negro Music in White America by Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) is published.
1965: Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem on February 21. Poet and essayist Larry Neal witnesses the murder.
1965: The Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School opens in Harlem in April.
1965: Broadside Press is created by Dudley Randall in Detroit, Michigan.
1965: "A Poem For Black Hearts" (a tribute poem for Malcolm X) by Amiri Baraka published in Negro Digest.
1965: "Black Art" composed, performed by Amiri Baraka in November on Sonny Murray's album Sonny's Time Now.
1966: A fourth published version of Hayden’s “Middle Passage” appears in his Selected Poems.
1966: "Black Art" by Amiri Baraka is published in the January issue of Liberator.
1966: John Oliver Killens organizes a major Black writers conference at Fisk University in Nashville in April.
1967: John Coltrane dies July 17, and quickly becomes a major subject of tribute for Black poets.
1967: Third World Press is created by Haki Madhubuti in Chicago, Illinois.
1968: Poet Henry Dumas is killed May 23, New York City Transit Authority police officer.
1968: Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing edited by Baraka and Neal is published.
1969: Nikki Giovanni has a book party promoting Black Judgement; receives coverage in the Times.
1969: Carolyn Rodgers's essay "Black Poetry--Where It's At" appears in Negro Digest in September.
1973: Understanding the New Black Poetry, edited by Stephen Henderson, is published.
1976: Black World magazine, a major venue for the publication of Black poetry, ceases publication.
1976: Eugene B. Redmond publishes Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry, A Critical Study.
1976: Robert Hayden appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
1984: Eroding Witness (1985) by Nathaniel Mackey, selected by M. Harper as a National Poetry Series Winner.
1985: Gwendolyn Brooks appointed the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
1985: Robert Hayden: Collected Poems, edited by Frederick Glaysher, is published.
1987: Rita Dove awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Thomas and Beulah.
1987: The Dark Room Collective is founded by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange.
1988: Good Woman and Next: New Poems (1987), both by Lucille Clifton, finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
1988: Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa is published.
1989: Gwendolyn Brooks is awarded the Robert Frost Medal.
1990: Elizabeth Alexander's The Venus Hottentot is published.
1990: Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (1991) by Thylias Moss, National Poetry Series Winner.
1992: Derek Walcott receives Nobel Prize for Literature.
1992: Allison Joseph wins the John C. Zacharis First Book Award for What Keeps Us Here.
1992: Marilyn Nelson wins the Anisfield-Wolf Award for The Homeplace
1992: In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers, edited by Kevin Powell & Ras Baraka, published.
1993: Maya Angelou reads poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at inauguration of Bill Clinton.
1993: Rita Dove appointed Poet Laureate of U.S.
1993: Kevin Young's Most Way Home (1995) is selected by Lucille Clifton as a National Poetry Series Winner.
1994: The Furious Flower Poetry conference, organized by Joanne Gabbin, takes place September 29 - October 1.
1994: Yusef Komunyakaa wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1994; Yusef Komunyakaa receives the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for Neon Vernacular.
1996: Cave Canem, retreat for African American poets, is founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady.
1996: Kevin Young wins John C. Zacharis First Book Award Most Way Home.
1996: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay.
1997: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde is published.
1999: Natasha Trethewey's Domestic Work (2000), selected by Rita Dove for the inaugural Cave Canem prize
1999: Ai wins the National Book Award for Poetry for Vice: New and Selected Poems.
1999: Terrance Hayes receives Whiting Writers' Award.
1999: Allison Joseph founds the Young Writers Workshop.
2000: Lucille Clifton wins the National Book Award for Poetry for her volume Blessing the Boats.
2000: Terrance Hayes receives the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for Muscular Music.
2001: Yusef Komunyakaa awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
2001: Terrance Hayes's Hip Logic (2002) is selected by Cornelius Eady as a National Poetry Series Winner.
2001: Sonia Sanchez is awarded the Robert Frost Medal.
2001: Lucille Clifton receives Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.
2001: Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady is published.
2002: Langston Hughes symposium, organized by Maryemma Graham, takes place.
2002: Amiri Baraka appointed Poet Laureate of New Jersey in July.
2002: Tracy K. Smith's volume The Body's Question selected by Kevin Young for Cave Canem Prize for poetry.
2002: Jay Wright receives Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.
2002: Carl Phillips receives the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for The Tether.
2003: Major Jackson receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2004: Tyehimba Jess's Leadbelly: poems (2005), selected by Brigit P. Kelly as a National Poetry Series Winner.
2004: Second Furious Flower Poetry conference, organized by Joanne Gabbin, takes place September 22 - 25.
2004: A. Van Jordan receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2005: Patricia Smith's Teahouse of the Almighty (2006) is a National Poetry Series Winner.
2005: A. Van Jordan receives Anisfield-Wolf Award for Macnolia: Poems.
2005: Thomas Sayers Ellis receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2005: Tracy K. Smith receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2005: John Keene receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2006: Nathaniel Mackey wins the National Book Award for Poetry for his volume Splay Anthem.
2006: Tyehimba Jess receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2007: Lucille Clifton awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
2007: Elizabeth Alexander becomes first-ever recipient of Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize.
2007: Natasha Trethewey wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her volume Native Guard (2006).
2007: Nikki Giovanni reads poem on April 17, commemorating the April 16 Virginia Tech massacre.
2008: Michael S. Harper is awarded the Robert Frost Medal.
2008: Douglas Kearney's The Black Automaton (2009) selected as a National Poetry Series Winner.
2008: Adrian Matejka's Mixology (2009) is selected by Kevin Young as a National Poetry Series Winner.
2009: Elizabeth Alexander reads "Praise Song for the Day" at inauguration of Barack Obama.
2009: Praise Song For The Day by E. Alexander and Bicycles by Nikki Giovanni are top best selling volumes.
2009: Jericho Brown receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2010: Terrance Hayes wins National Book Award for Poetry for his volume Lighthead.
2010: Lucille Clifton is awarded the Robert Frost Medal.
2010: "73 Poems for 73 Years: Celebrating the Life of Lucille Clifton" held on September 21.
2010: Elizabeth Alexander receives Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry.
2010: Harryette Mullen receives the Jackson Poetry Prize.
2011: Nikky Finney wins National Book Award for Poetry for her volume Head Off & Split.
2011: Sonia Sanchez appointed Poet Laureate of Philadelphia.
2011: The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove, is published.
2012: Elizabeth Alexander begins her "twitter poem project."
2012: Marilyn Nelson is awarded the Robert Frost Medal.
2012: Tracy K. Smith wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her volume Life on Mars.
2012: N. Giovanni, M. Angelou & Joanne Gabbin organize a celebration for Toni Morrison on October 16.
2012: The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 is published by BOA Editions Ltd.
2012: Natasha Trethewey is appointed Mississippi's Poet Laureate.
2012>: Natasha Trethewey is announced as the new U.S. Poet Laureate.
2012: Kevin Young's book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness is published by Graywolf Press.
2013: Natasha Trethewey is reappointed as the U.S. Poet Laureate.
2013: Rowan Ricardo receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2014: Amiri Baraka dies January 9.
2014: Adrian Matejka receives the Anisfield-Wolf Award for The Big Smoke.
2014: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is published.
2014: Claudia Rankine receives the Jackson Poetry Prize.
2014: Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke is named a finalist for Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
2014: Maya Angelou dies May 28.
2014: Nathaniel Mackey wins Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
2014: Terrance Hayes earns a MacArthur Fellowship.
2014: SOS--Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader edited by John H. Bracey Jr., Sonia Sanchez, and James Smethurst is published.
2014: Afaa Michael Weaver receives the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for The Government of Nature.
2014: Yona Harvey receives the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for Hemming the Water.
2014: #BlackPoetsSpeakOut launches.
2015: Nathaniel Mackey wins the Bollingen Prize for American Poetry.
2015: Safiya Sinclair awarded the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships.
2015: Kamau Brathwaite receives the Robert Frost Medal.
2015: Aracelis Girmay receives the Whiting Writers' Award.
2015: Roger Reeves receives the Whiting Writers' Award.
2015: Claudia Rankine wins the National Book Critics Circle Award.
2015: Gregory Pardlo wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
2015: Robin Coste Lewis wins the National Book Award for Poetry.
2015: Joshua Bennett is a National Poetry Series Winner.
2015: A. Van Jordan receives Lannan Literary Award for Poetry.
2015: Nate Marshall awarded Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships.
2015: Ross Gay wins National Book Critics Circle Award.
2015: Kevin Young wins Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.
2015: Jamila Woods awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.
2015: Elizabeth Alexander appointed the inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.
2015: Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement, an NEH Institute, led by Maryemma Graham takes place.
2015: Elizabeth Alexander appointed director of Creativity and Free Expression of Ford Foundation.
2016: Danez Smith earns the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
2016: Ross Gay earns the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
2016: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs receives a Whiting Writers' Award.
2016: Safiya Sinclair receives a Whiting Writers' Award.
2016: Will Alexander awarded Jackson Poetry Prize.
2016: Sonia Sanchez wins the Shelley Memorial Award.
2016: Ed Roberson receives the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
2016: Angel Nafis awarded Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.
2016: Alison C. Rollins awarded Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.
2016: Tyehimba Jess receives Lannan Foundation Literary Award.
2016: Claudia Rankine wins MacArthur Fellowship.
2016: Elizabeth Alexander elected to Pulitzer Prize Board.
2016: Kevin Young named as new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
2017: Vievee Francis earns Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
2017: Phillip B. Williams earns Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
2017: Simone White receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2017: Phillip B. Williams receives Whiting Writers' Award.
2017: Tyehimba Jess awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
2017: Robin Coste Lewis named Los Angeles Poet Laureate.
2017: Cortney Lamar Charleston receives Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.
2017: Tracy K. Smith appointed Poet Laureate of U.S.
2018: Ntozake Shange, playwright and poet best known for her Obie Award-winning choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, dies on October 27, 2018
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