UPDATED: 11:00 a.m. ET, Oct. 7, 2021
Originally Published 12:00 p.m. Oct. 4, 2018
Several influential African-American poets have captivated the nation with their poems for decades and these black poets deserve their flowers. 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.
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.
Some of the world’s most influential poets are black. Their works are used in so many forms of entertainment to show our culture and our struggles through word. Gil Scott-Heron’s “Your Soul and Mine,” was recently used in HBO’s latest movie The Many Saints of Newark. The movie also used one of his most popular poems, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” The revolutionary poem was a slogan from the Black Power movement in the 1960’s. Herron created the poem to symbolize how the revolution wouldn’t happen in front of the eyes of the oppressor, but instead it would blossom in the hands of the people.
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. Hughes might be one of America’s most popular poets, black or white. He frequently took social stances in his art with title’s like Jim Crow’s Last Stand, and Freedom’s Plow.
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 works that have changed world. Without their poems life would be boring. Art in words have been the backbone for many art forms like Rap or R&B. Many rappers even contribute their style and flow to prominent poets who lead the way.
1. Saul WilliamsSource:Getty
Williams, who is known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip-hop, is one of the pioneers of spoken word.
2. Haki MadhubutiSource:Getty
Madhubuti is the founder of Third World Press, the country’s oldest black-owned independent publishing house.
3. Nikki GiovanniSource:Getty
Giovanni, who has created several renowned works, was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award.
4. Rita DoveSource:Getty
Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts and Humanities to Dove, an acclaimed poet, in 2011.
5. Maya AngelouSource:Getty
Angelou, who was also a civil rights activist, is known for several iconic poems such as “Phenomenal Woman.”
6. Langston HughesSource:Getty
Hughes, who was also a novelist and playwright, was an innovator of the literary art form called jazz poetry.
7. Tracy K. SmithSource:Getty
Smith is the 52nd Poet Laureate of the United States, an office that she took in 2017.
8. Amiri BarakaSource:Getty
American poet and activist Amiri Baraka performs on the final evening of Vision Festival XIII at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, New York, June 15, 2008.
9. Gwendolyn BrooksSource:Getty
Brooks was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950.
10. Tyehimba JessSource:Getty
Jess, a celebrated poet, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017.