Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

The Thompson Library Blog

On Display: African American Poetry

by Zia Davidian on 2021-02-08T10:00:00-05:00 | Comments

Happy Black History Month! 

Last year, the Library in collaboration with Dr. Pamela Ross McClain, Assistant Professor of Education, was awarded a grant from Library of America to put on two public (and now, virtual) events celebrating the 250+ year tradition of African American Poetry. We are excited to partner with Black Student Union and Block Club to honor this literary tradition and uplift the Black poets and artists who are making history every day. 

Below are books of poetry, library databases, books on history & criticism, and some videos on the topic of African American Poetry. All are available electronically through the UM-Flint library. Effort was made to select diverse works by Black authors, though it is far from comprehensive. Much more is available in hardcopy from the UM-Flint library and UM-Ann Arbor libraries, and we encourage you to explore that collection as well as what's available online. If you have any questions, please ask a librarian!

Books of Poetry

Cover Art¡Manteca!: An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets by Melissa Castillo-Garsow
Containing the work of more than 40 poets--equally divided between men and women--who self-identify as Afro-Latino, ¡Manteca! is the first poetry anthology to highlight writings by Latinos of African descent. The themes covered are as diverse as the authors themselves. Many pieces rail against a system that institutionalizes poverty and racism. Others remember parents and grandparents who immigrated to the United States in search of a better life, only to learn that the American Dream is a nightmare for someone with dark skin and nappy hair. But in spite of the darkness, faith remains.
Cover ArtThe Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 by Lucille Clifton; Toni Morrison (Foreword by); Kevin Young (Editor)
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 combines all eleven of Lucille Clifton's published collections with more than fifty previously unpublished poems. The unpublished poems feature early poems from 1965-1969, a collection-in-progress titled the book of days (2008), and a poignant selection of final poems. An insightful foreword by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison and comprehensive afterword by noted poet Kevin Young frames Clifton's lifetime body of work, providing the definitive statement about this major America poet's career. 
Cover ArtMy Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
Cover ArtMorning Haiku by Sonia Sanchez
A collection of haiku that celebrates the gifts of life and mourns the deaths of revered African American figures in the worlds of music, literature, art, and activism. In her verses, we hear the sounds of Max Roach "exploding in the universe," the "blue hallelujahs" of the Philadelphia Murals, and the voice of Odetta "thundering out of the earth." Sanchez sings the praises of contemporaries whose poetic alchemy turns "words into gems": Maya Angelou, Richard Long, and Toni Morrison. And she pays homage to peace workers and civil rights activists from Rosa Parks and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm to Brother Damu, founder of the National Black Environmental Justice Network.
Cover ArtThe Book of American Negro Poetry by James Weldon Johnson (Editor)
The work of James Weldon Johnson (1871 - 1938) inspired and encouraged the artists of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement in which he himself was an important figure. Johnson was active in almost every aspect of American civil life and became one of the first African-American professors at New York University. He is best remembered for his writing, which questions, celebrates and commemorates his experience as an African-American.
Cover ArtThe Hungry Ear by Kevin Young
 Kevin Young, distinguished poet, editor of African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, the anthology companion to the Lift Every Voice grant, uses the lens of food - and his impeccable taste - to bring us some of the best poems, classic and current, period. Poets include: Elizabeth Alexander, Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Gluck, Seamus Heaney, Tony Hoagland, Langston Hughes, Galway Kinnell, Frank O'Hara, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Matthew Rohrer, Charles Simic, Tracy K. Smith, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Mark Strand, Kevin Young
Cover ArtBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Cover ArtThe New Black by Evie Shockley
Winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (2012) Smart, grounded, and lyrical, Evie Shockley's the new black integrates powerful ideas about "blackness," past and present, through the medium of beautifully crafted verse. the new black sees our racial past inevitably shaping our contemporary moment, but struggles to remember and reckon with the impact of generational shifts: what seemed impossible to people not many years ago--for example, the election of an African American president--will have always been a part of the world of children born in the new millennium. Online reader's companion at http://
Cover ArtJust for a Thrill by Geoffrey Jacques


A selection of published works, including poetry, fiction, essays, and biographies & autobiographies.
Covers the history of black American poetry, from its beginnings through the 20th century.
Over 250 volumes of fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fictional prose from Heinemann's African Writers Series, which published the key texts of modern African literature for over 40 years.
1700 to present. African-American authors of works of non-fiction, including articles, books, interviews, journal articles, letters, & other formats, covering all aspects of the black experience.
Includes approximately 8,000 previously published short stories as well as previously uncollected works and unpublished manuscripts. Fables and folktales are also widely represented within the collection.

History & Criticism

Cover ArtThe Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry by Howard Rambsy
Cover ArtRobert Hayden in Verse by Derik Smith
This book sheds new light on the work of Robert Hayden (1913-80) in response to changing literary scholarship. While Hayden's poetry often reflected aspects of the African American experience, he resisted attempts to categorize his poetry in racial terms. This fresh appreciation of Hayden's work recontextualizes his achievements against the backdrop of the Black Arts Movement and traces his influence on contemporary African American poets. Placing Hayden at the heart of a history of African American poetry and culture spanning the Harlem Renaissance to the Hip-Hop era, the book explains why Hayden is now a canonical figure in 20th-century American literature. In deep readings that focus on Hayden's religiousness, class consciousness, and historical vision, author Derik Smith inverts earlier scholarly accounts that figure Hayden as an outsider at odds with the militancy of the Black Arts movement. Robert Hayden in Verse offers detailed descriptions of the poet's vigorous contributions to 1960s discourse about art, modernity, and blackness to show that the poet was, in fact, an earnest participant in Black Arts-era political and aesthetic debates.
Cover ArtOf Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers by Cedric Tolliver
Of Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers recovers the history of the writers, artists, and intellectuals of the African diaspora who, witnessing a transition to an American-dominated capitalist world-system during the Cold War, offered searing critiques of burgeoning U.S. hegemony. Cedric R. Tolliver traces this history through an analysis of signal events and texts where African diaspora literary culture intersects with the wider cultural Cold War, from the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists organized by Francophone intellectuals in September 1956 to the reverberations among African American writers and activists to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Among Tolliver's subjects are Caribbean writers Jacques Stephen Alexis, George Lamming, and Aimé Césaire, the black press writing of Alice Childress and Langston Hughes, and the ordeal of Paul Robeson, among other topics. The book's final chapter highlights the international and domestic consequences of the cultural Cold War and discusses their lingering effects on our contemporary critical predicament.  
Cover ArtKilling Poetry by Javon Johnson
Winner of the 2019 Lilla A. Heston Award Co-winner of the 2018 Ethnography Division's Best Book from the NCA In recent decades, poetry slams and the spoken word artists who compete in them have sparked a resurgent fascination with the world of poetry. However, there is little critical dialogue that fully engages with the cultural complexities present in slam and spoken word poetry communities, as well as their ramifications. In Killing Poetry, renowned slam poet, Javon Johnson unpacks some of the complicated issues that comprise performance poetry spaces. He argues that the truly radical potential in slam and spoken word communities lies not just in proving literary worth, speaking back to power, or even in altering power structures, but instead in imagining and working towards altogether different social relationships. His illuminating ethnography provides a critical history of the slam, contextualizes contemporary black poets in larger black literary traditions, and does away with the notion that poetry slams are inherently radically democratic and utopic.   Killing Poetry--at times autobiographical, poetic, and journalistic--analyzes the masculine posturing in the Southern California community in particular, the sexual assault in the national community, and the ways in which related social media inadvertently replicate many of the same white supremacist, patriarchal, and mainstream logics so many spoken word poets seem to be working against. Throughout, Johnson examines the promises and problems within slam and spoken word, while illustrating how community is made and remade in hopes of eventually creating the radical spaces so many of these poets strive to achieve. 



 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


  Follow Us

  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.