When I think of black poetry, like many people, I can’t help but think about African-American poetry, and black history in America. There was a time when I would probably have thought that black poetry and African-American poetry—black history and African-American history—are the same thing, but maturity has made me realize that there is a not only a world and history outside of America, but black struggles and black history outside of the African-American experience. That being said, I still have to write from the perspective of my own experience—my own black experience—which is that of an American. Though I am cognizant of a world outside of America, and desire to learn and appreciate other cultures, I find it ironic that when I researched black poems, purposefully focusing on famous African or Caribbean poets that have had a profound impact upon the genre, my research always led me back to famous African-American poets.
Black poems are unique in that many are greatly affected by the African-American struggle for freedom and equality in the United States. Moreover, there a few other reasons why I believe that African-American poets are held in such high regard when it comes to black poems:
- African-American poets’ native language is English, which has evolved into the international language in such arenas as aviation, diplomacy and tourism.
- African-Americans were “freed” from the bonds of slavery at relatively the same time as other black cultures across the world.
- Basically, before the rise of America there was no appreciable amount of recording of black writing because, to some extent, blacks’ main form of communication derived from an African oral tradition.
- Most famous black poets come from America—arguably the country whose society has had the most prolific cultural impact upon the world in history.
Suffice it to say that though African-American poets may not be considered the best black poets by some in the world, the preceding reasons have destined African-American poets to take the spotlight in the origins and evolution of black poetry, even to this day.
Black poetry is still a relatively new genre when viewed from a historical perspective, and this is probably why a significant number of black poems have themes that either directly or indirectly deal with overcoming struggles and/or discussing dreams (at many times in a sense or spirit of yearning). Famous black poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen have written poems discussing dreams [See “Dreams”, “A Dream Deferred”, and “For A Poet”, respectively]. This is not to say that there weren’t (aren’t) any famous black poets who, for the most part, didn’t really have works that portray life from a black perspective. African-American poet, Phillis Wheatley’s poetry is more akin to white, English poetry. Wheatley did however write “On Being Brought from Africa to America”, which seems to portray whites as the saviors of black savages. Of course Phillis Wheatley lived during the 1700s, a time when blacks were still enslaved, and their voices suppressed.
Today, black poems are still evolving, and famous black poets like Maya Angelou write about all aspects of life, but still produce poems that portray and reflect blacks’ struggles for social and economic equality throughout the world. I have been writing poetry for years, much of which has to do with issues regarding African-American history and experiences, as well as poems pertaining to general oppression, race relations and racism in America. Of course, just like many of the themes in my commentary and essays on my other website, Race Relations, many of my race-related poems deal with issues and themes that are universal around the world. Life is not all black and white, and as a poet I have written about all sorts of issues, and I will probably publish some of those poems as well.
Thanks for visiting my site. I will be updating it from time to time with new black poems—poems that portray different aspects of the black experience, as well as poems by black writers. Just continue to check the links below, and peruse the new categories as the site evolves (which may take some time). Unless a poem is attributed to someone else, it is written by me, Phillip McCullough Jr. Feel free to register, and give appropriate feedback. Otherwise, just reflect and enjoy.
- Bigotry 101
- Black Man’s Eden
- Black! White! Church? Right
- Forced Fertility
- From One Brother To Another
- Hip-Hop Gospel
- Lingering Reality
- More Than About Black Hair
- Revolt [by Martha Augmon]
- Sing, Dear Mother Africa
- The Fate Of The Ivory Tower
- The Illegitimate Precedent
- The World: Face Of Oppression
- Unenlightened Negro
Black Poems can also be construed, rightly or wrongly, as poems that are written by black people that don’t necessarily have to do with race at all. Visit here to see poems that aren’t confined to a racial perspective, but have still been born—in some sense—out of being black in a world where many black voices have been marginalized and/or trivialized for whatever reasons.
Yes! That’s right! My skin is brown!
And throughout my life I have never found
Someone who is oblivious to a person’s color.
Yes! They have always been prejudiced in one way or another.
My ancestors built up “America, The Beautiful”,
And all the while, they were treated like animals.
Oh, yeah! My ancestors were not treated like men.
They were beaten over and over again.
Yes! Even the dogs were treated better than the slaves—
“God Bless America”—America be saved.
Can you believe dem niggers, Uncle Sam?
They’re speakin’ of civil rights. What a sham!
And we’s treated dem so well—lettin’ um wuk fo’ us and all.
I’ll tell ya…I’ll never understand dem colored folks at all.
You know what dey are? Dey’s jus’ downright hateful.
Not only dat, dey’s totally ungrateful.
My father has a great education,
So he landed a job with a large corporation.
He was one of the best salesmen in the company’s history,
But they kept trying to “keep him in his place,” you see?
This is the way that it has always been
In a country that is owned by only white men.
In the educational institutions, all I see
Are teachers who are not completely fair to me.
I deserve an A, and they give me a B
(In a country that professes equality).
But still, even the teachers discriminate.
Well, I guess that this is just a punishment of fate.
“I’m not prejudiced,” is what they state;
But try to take their daughters on a date.
Only then will the total truth be known,
When they tell their daughters to leave you alone.
Well, I might as well date my “own kind,”
Because the people of America will always be blind.
Oh yes! I shall never begin
To understand why the white man hates my skin.
But I shall persevere until the end,
Because I will strive for equality
In this country that is supposedly free…
Bah! ‘Tis filled with unending hypocrisy.
“Oh say can you see…” are the first few words
Of the “Star Spangled Banner” which is totally absurd.
I said it once; I’ll say it again:
The people of America will always be blind.
How can anyone see with a prejudiced frame of mind?
As awful and unpatriotic as it may seem to you,
I laugh at the thought of the “Red, White and Blue”
It symbolizes freedom, justice and equality
(But the flag doesn’t mean a thing to me).
It is just a piece of cloth that symbolizes words.
True freedom, justice and equality are totally absurd.
You keep us in check with discrimination.
You cause us anger and frustration.
You ask me why I am being “hostile,”
As you smile in my face, and all the while
You are trying to keep me down, I say.
But I shall continue the fight for freedom anyway.
Oh yes, I’ll stand proud and tall—
Even if the odds are a million to one—
I’ll fight you all until I have won.
By Phillip McCullough Jr.
I stare at the vastness
of the blank, white paper
the creation of new worlds.
I am omnipotent.
Every thought travels
from the imagination of my mind,
through my soul,
and demands me to create my vision.
This is the laboratory
where I can experiment
with different galaxies—
from constellations to planets.
I am able to chisel
every mountain, canyon and stone.
It is I,
who is responsible
for the many shades of the universe.
It is my choice to paint the oceans blue
And the grasslands green.
And of nature,
I am the choreographer
that changes the seasons,
summons a storm,
or makes the leaves dance
within the wind.
Anything is possible
In this script
that I develop
for the many facets of life
that coexist within the universe.
For I am all,
and I am one.
By Phillip McCullough Jr.
A poet to paper is like God to the universe.