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
- 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.