Cover Image: African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (LOA #333)

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (LOA #333)

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Member Reviews

As I just skimmed through it, my first reaction was Wow! And then, as I read the introduction (which you must in this book without fail), I thought, “This is a work of love!” Of love of poetry, of culture, of people, of pride in who we are, of history, and of

Considering the magnitude of care and effort that this book has definitely taken, I will be investing some amount of the same care and effort as I read it. Thankfully, I could profess to be not completely ignorant as I turned the pages of this book; as previous reads had introduced me to at least some of the names and a few of the poems included here. But as I mention, it is just a few and I am so glad to be able to learn about more poets and their wonderful poems through this epic anthology.

The book is divided into eight sections arranged chronologically from 1770 all the way to 2020. Within each section, the poets are arranged alphabetically (except for the first section which covers the longest period of time – from 1770 to 1899). And with almost 250 poets included, along with so many of each of their poems, I cannot begin to state just a few of them, even with, ‘as an example.’ So I will let the book speak for itself, which it does – brilliantly, magnificently, wow-ly!

The backmatter does total justice to this book; there are brief biographical notes of the included poets, as well as further notes on the poems themselves which add so much to the reading of the book.

I think the best way to read this book (which I will be doing for the rest of it) is by reading it a little at a time; reading the poets/poems along with their related biographies/notes to get the most out of it.

Check out more about the book and other related resources at the LOA website.

In Summary
A must have for classrooms and libraries everywhere; and a must read for all who love poetry or want to learn more about African American history or who love to read!

Highly highly recommend!

Disclaimer: Thanks to NetGalley and LOA for the digital review copy of this book. These opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone else.
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Upon reading this book it made me realise I only enjoy a specific type of poetry which is a fault of myself and not the book, hence my rating. The poems themselves were well written and the contents was wonderful, just not for me
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Absolutely amazing.  I love poetry anthologies and this is beautifully curated.  I wish more people read poetry and really appreciated it for what it is.  Beautiful collection.
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I love a good curated anthology and this one on poetry does not disappoint, Still taking all this powerful language in - amazing.
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I wish I taught English so I could build an entire course around these poems--so many amazing writers and so many I'd never read before!
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𝑨𝒇𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑨𝒎𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑷𝒐𝒆𝒕𝒓𝒚: 250 𝒀𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑺𝒕𝒓𝒖𝒈𝒈𝒍𝒆 & 𝑺𝒐𝒏𝒈 (edited by poet, scholar and brilliant curator, Kevin Young) is an invaluable 1,170 page anthology which belongs in every personal bookcase, school and public library.


𝑶𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑻𝒖𝒓𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑼𝒑 𝒐𝒇 𝑼𝒏𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒇𝒊𝒆𝒅 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑭𝒆𝒎𝒂𝒍𝒆 𝑪𝒐𝒓𝒑𝒔𝒆𝒔
Toi Derricotte

Mowing his three acres with a tractor,
a man notices something ahead—a mannequin— 
he thinks someone threw it from a car. Closer
he sees it is the body of a black woman.

Medics come and turn her with pitchforks. 
Her gaze shoots past him to nothing. Nothing is explained. How many black women
have been turned up to stare at us blankly,

in weedy fields, off highways,
pushed out in plastic bags,
shot, knifed, unclothed partially, raped, 
their wounds sealed with a powdery crust.

Last week on TV, a gruesome face, eyes bloated shut. 
No one will say, "She looks like she's sleeping," ropes 
of blue-black slashes at the mouth. Does anybody know 
this woman? Will anyone come forth? Silence

like a backwave rushes into that !eld
where, just the week before, four other black girls
had been found. The gritty image bangs in the air 
just a few seconds, but it strikes me,

a black woman, there is a question being asked 
about my life. How can I
protect myself? Even if I lock my doors,
walk only in the light, someone wants me dead.

Am I wrong to think
if five white women had been stripped, 
broken, the sirens would wail until 
someone was named?

Is it any wonder I walk over these bodies pretending they are not mine, that I do not know
the killer, that I am just like any woman—
if not wanted, at least tolerated.

Part of me wants to disappear, to pull
the earth on top of me. Then there is this part that digs me up with this pen
and turns my sad black face to the light.


Kevin Young is the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and poetry editor of 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝒀𝒐𝒓𝒌𝒆𝒓. He has previously served as curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University and director the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Young is the author of many books, including 𝑩𝒓𝒐𝒘𝒏, 𝑩𝒖𝒏𝒌, 𝑩𝒍𝒖𝒆 𝑳𝒂𝒘𝒔 and 𝑱𝒆𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝑹𝒐𝒍𝒍. Among the anthologies he has edited are 𝑩𝒍𝒖𝒆𝒔 𝑷𝒐𝒆𝒎𝒔, 𝑱𝒂𝒛𝒛 𝑷𝒐𝒆𝒎𝒔, 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑨𝒓𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝑳𝒐𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈: 𝑷𝒐𝒆𝒎𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑮𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒇 & 𝑯𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈, and, for Library of America, 𝑱𝒐𝒉𝒏 𝑩𝒆𝒓𝒓𝒚𝒎𝒂𝒏: 𝑺𝒆𝒍𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝑷𝒐𝒆𝒎𝒔.

A huge thank you to @NetGalley and The Library of America for a DRC of 𝑨𝒇𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑨𝒎𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑷𝒐𝒆𝒕𝒓𝒚: 250 𝒀𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑺𝒕𝒓𝒖𝒈𝒈𝒍𝒆 & 𝑺𝒐𝒏𝒈, edited by Kevin Young.
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This is an excellent introduction to African American poetry, full of standards and new voices, and some lovely surprises. I'm a bit unhappy with the inclusion of Alice Walker, known for her antisemitism, but I understand why her work is included. However, the formatting of the book (at least for Kindle) is a problem. Lines are pushed together or broken unevenly (and not in the ways they're broken in printed versions of the same poems) and the notes are all endnotes, not footnotes or introductory notes, meaning that readers have to flip back and forth hundreds of pages to see the notes for each poem.
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Despite having struggled to read some parts of this book, considering older texts have considerable differences in regards of language, I loved reading it, even considering these parts--as an aspiring linguist, I like the challenge. I've been quite interested in reading nonwhite literary works as well as historical narratives, as most of the ones seen in the school's history books are introduced in a very eurocentric point of view, and this book was an insightful start.
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This is a great collection of poetry about African Americans lives. Lovers of poetry will enjoy this a lot.
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This is a wonderful and important collection -- something anyone who loves poetry should have in their personal library to study and to cherish. It is a comprehensive (but fun and highly readable!) survey of 250 years of African American poetry, starting with pioneers like Phillis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon, early 20th century masters like Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, before moving on to Harlem Renaissance mainstays like Claude McKay and Langston Hughes, and more modern masters like Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Richard Wright, Nikki Giovanni, Derek Walcott, and literally dozens more, including contributions from poets from the last decade.  Congratulations to Library of America for another fantastic collection.  And thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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This book is nearly impossible to rate. Any collection of poetry has poems you enjoy and poems you dislike. But for the historical context given, along with the sheer number of writers I now need to look into, it cannot get anything but 5 stars. These poems are important and painful and poignant.
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I studied poetry in college, but can probably name the African American poets we discussed in class on one hand. I look back at all the anthologies on my shelf and see pages and pages, centuries of writing by white authors. I can't express how thrilled I am to have access to an anthology that showcases centuries of African American poetry and allows us to view American history through the words of so many Black authors, many whom I'd never heard of or had the pleasure of reading. What a joy to read and savor this: It's a big volume, but well worth reading.
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I initially had this as a courtesy copy via NetGalley to provide an honest review. This by far has become my favorite anthology of poetry and after I got to the Harlem Renaissance, I knew this had to be a permanent collection to my library. So, then I purchased a physical copy to my bookshelf, it's just that important to have. For starters, the book is divided into eight sections and while I thought I was familiar with most of the notable poets, I learned that there are SO MANY others that I have never read. And that is related to my one complaint, I wish that the biographical notes had been included with the introduction of each poet or section, instead of at the end. I found that I needed to put the book down to Google or quickly flip to the back of the book to learn a bit more. 

Very thoughtfully compiled, some poems were familiar and definitely needed to be included. Others were new to me but will forever be remembered. This is definitely my "traveling book" that will stay in my to go bag/work bag to pull out to read over and over.
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I loved reading all the poetry and the history behind the works. I don't remember reading any of these in high school or college; so I am glad that this came across my search today. I would highly recommend teachers utilize some of these works in their classrooms today.
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I've read several of Young's curated works, and they are all well done. This is an excellent collection -- a good one to have on hand.
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This is a wonderful book! The large amount of content and the genre will make it the type of book that I will dip in and out of from time to time. It's not a book that can be rushed!
Thank you so much for letting me have this ARC. I plan on buying my own copy so that can savor the content.
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A comprehensive collection of African American poetry perfect for the classroom. This collection is extensive and covers a huge variety of poetry and poets from 1770-2020. Sections break down poetry by specific time periods throughout American History. A wonderful reference for the classroom or for a personal library! 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this ARC.
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I received an ebook copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book of poetry exceeded my expectations. First of all, I really appreciated the way the book was organized. If you're only interested in one historical period it's easy just to concentrate there. But I also felt like there was a high attention to detail in making sure as many poets as possible made it into this anthology without leaving influential and important poets behind. I can only recommend it onward.
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A wonderful compilation of poetry from African American's through history.  It is lovely that you can see the  progression of themes through the sections of the book as you move closer to present day.  While I was more personally interested in reading authors and their poems from the late twenty and twenty-first century (1990-2020), as an English teacher I appreciated the sections that focused on the Harlem Renaissance era  and the Civil Rights era.  While this book has well over 900 pages, one wouldn't expect to sit down and read it cover to cover.  Like with any anthology you can peruse it at your leisure and find the authors you love, while finding new ones to treasure.  As a teacher, I'd love for this to be on my bookshelf to show my Black and Brown students that there have been, and continue to be countless poets that look like them.  This is a great collection to add to your shelf.
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This is an outstanding collection of important poetry tracing the lives of African Americans over the last 250 years. Truly a treasure that belongs on every family's bookshelf and in every school and public library.
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