What Poetry Teaches About History
". . .the hill we climb if only we dare it, because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”
From “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
Spoken word poetry preserves the human experience in a way that textbooks and academic lectures cannot. Poetry makes the exploration of history a more approachable, personal and thoughtful journey.
African-American poetry, like music, has been with us since the first African-born men, women and children were enslaved and brought to America to live a life not of their choosing.
Amanda Gorman was named America’s Youth Poet Laureate at age 17.
At this year’s inaugural ceremonies she inspired hope for millions of people through spoken word poetry.
Gorman’s stirring delivery of her poem “The Hill We Climb” has surely earned its place in the record of American history. Watch it on YouTube.
A masterwork of poetry can be found in “African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song.”
Editor Kevin Young opens the anthology with verse by Phyllis Wheatley (1773) who was sold into slavery as a young girl and went on to become the first African-American to publish a book of poems. Young guides readers through the acclaimed works of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove and Natasha Tretheway. And he brings in more than 200 other poets deserving of wider recognition, including artists whose voices emerge through the Black Lives Matter movement of the present day.
Released in 2020, “African American Poetry” boasts more than 1,100 pages of poetry, plus biographies and cultural as well as historical references. Kevin Young is an accomplished poet, poetry editor of The New Yorker, and the new Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“With this monumental work, Young has provided a lasting contribution to historical preservation and poetry.” — Publishers Weekly
“…long overdue…The late June Jordan described the proliferation of Black poetry in America as ‘the difficult miracle,’ and that miracle receives glorious tribute here." — O, the Oprah Magazine