Several influential African-American poets have captivated the nation with their poems for decades. On National Poetry Day, Americans can reflect on their works, from pieces that touch on the past to pieces that provide vivid visions of the future.

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People who are passionate about poetry can ponder poets’ wise words on this special day. They can read poems, listen to audio or hear poets’ speak at events across the nation. They can celebrate the gift of poetry: the imagery, emotion and messages. National Poetry Day is a chance for a celebration of spoken and written words; it’s an opportunity to let other poets’ works inspire them.

Also, there are many renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning poets who have won acclaim with their work. Many people appreciate the poems of deceased, legendary poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. Many of today’s innovative poets, from Tyehimba Jess to Tracy K. Smith, have also garnered hundreds of fans. Several wordsmiths have become poet laureates, which are government or institution-appointed positions that allow creatives to compose words for special events and occasions. These poets have received several prestigious honors.

Here are 10 influential Black poets who have created memorable works.

1. Saul Williams

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Williams, who is known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip-hop, is one of the pioneers of spoken word.

2. Haki Madhubuti

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Madhubuti is the founder of Third World Press, the country’s oldest black-owned independent publishing house.

3. Nikki Giovanni

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Giovanni, who has created several renowned works, was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award.

4. Amiri Baraka

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Baraka, who was also a dramatist and novelist, is one of the most widely published Black writers.

5. Rita Dove

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Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts and Humanities to Dove, an acclaimed poet, in 2011.

6. Maya Angelou

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Angelou, who was also a civil rights activist, is known for several iconic poems such as “Phenomenal Woman.”

7. Langston Hughes

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Hughes, who was also a novelist and playwright, was an innovator of the literary art form called jazz poetry.

8. Tracy K. Smith

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Smith is the 52nd Poet Laureate of the United States, an office that she took in 2017.

9. Gwendolyn Brooks

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Brooks was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950.

10. Tyehimba Jess

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Jess, a celebrated poet, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017.

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