October 22, 2020
Born on October 17, 1711 in Long Island New York, Jupiter Hammon was determined to be a very important figure in literature. Hammon was the first published African American poet in the United States. He was born into slavery, enslaved by Henry Lloyd who encouraged him to attend school, where he learned to read and write. He worked with Lloyd as a bookkeeper in the family’s business.He published his first poem An Evening Thought on Christmas Day of 1760 when he was 49 years old. Hammon is one of the founders of African-American literature.
National Black Poetry Day originated in 1970, but officially established in 1985, and commemorates the birth of Jupiter Hammon. On this day, we honor Black poets, and celebrate the importance of Black heritage and literacy along with the contributions made by Black poets and writers.

Black poetry refers to poems written by African Americans in the United States of America, and oftentimes the term may refer to poetry written by poets from other nations. In the US, some of the early black poets were Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley, who wrote primarily in the 18th century. Phillis Wheatley, the first African American female to publish poetry, wrote a poem in 1773 based on her personal slavery experience entitled On Being Brought From Africa To America. Paul Laurence Dunbar is perhaps the most famous black poet from the 19th century. Among his poems are We Wear the Mask and The Paradox

The Harlem Renaissance in the 20th century saw African American literature blooming. Poetry was very significant during this time, with Langston Hughes and Claude McKay leading black poets of this literary movement. Hughes wrote the famous Harlem and I Too and McKay wrote If We Must Die, paving the way for the Civil Rights Movement in the next few decades. Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance echoed diversity in many forms and subjects, with many poets like James Weldon Johnson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jean Toomer, Angelina Weld Grimke and Robert Hayden expressing the need for change through their poetry.
Since this significant literary movement, black poetry has been on the rise and a number of African American poets of the 20th century are among the best-known poets in the world. The Black Arts Movement followed with Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Larry Neal, Haki Mudhubuti, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde and Sonia Sanchez being among the most important poets of this time. Nikki Giovanni wrote Nikki-Rosa to show the diverse perspectives of wealth and happiness among black and white people. Maya Angelou sends a strong message of liberation and persistence in the poem Still I Rise . Audre Lorde celebrates and proclaims her African American heritage through metaphors in her poem Coal. Alice Walker, in When You Thought of Me Poor, talks about societal inequalities and sends a robust message of determination and strength.
Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution and the raising of consciousness
-Alice Walker

Rita Dove uses her poetry to enlighten a new reality of racial equality in her poem Banneker, focusing on the fine details of racial inequalities by using free verse and minimal imagery so the readers can focus on the details of her protagonist in the poem and how he handled political tensions. Kwame Dawes, in Tornado Child, presents issues of race and gender as experienced by African American women. Contemporary black poetry continues to evolve and shape the history of the country, with many poets focusing on creating a strong sense of literary communities like The Dark Room Collective that consists of a group of African American poets. Leaders of this Collective were Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange, and the group included poets like Major Jackson, John Keene, Janice Lowe, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Artress Bethany White, and Kevin Young.

Following a similar path, The Free Soil Arts Collective is a local organization based in Lowell; its mission is to create visibility for local artists of color. The organization is focusing on the power of narrative as a form of expressing art for underrepresented artists in the community. They collaborate with local artists to produce original creative works of art that empower marginalized voices and create a unique and inclusive sense of community. The Free Soil Arts Collective is currently collaborating with Middlesex Community College’s Theatre Department on a virtual production of “Towards an Anti-Racist Tomorrow”, a series of short plays written by Idris Goodwin.

#DEIatCTI #BlackPoetryDay #harlemrenaissance #blackhistory #blacklivesmatter #ReflectRichness

Please watch:
Langston Hughes Speaking at UCLA 2/16/1967 – video length 1.24.24

The Poetry of Jessica Grand-Domond of the Free Soil Arts Collective- length 5.29

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