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The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

Black Poetry Day encourages participants to set aside time to read, enjoy and appreciate the lyrical, powerful and poignant words of Black poets.

History of Black Poetry Day

On October 17, 1761, Jupiter Hammon, (poet, writer and preacher) became the first black published author in the United States, paving the way for many other Black authors and poets to share their gifts with the world. More than 250 years later, Black Poetry Day is celebrated each year on the anniversary of this important occasion.

Starting in 1985, Black Poetry Day was founded to celebrate the work of Black poets as well as paying respect to Black literacy, heritage and culture in general. The contributions Black poets have made to the world offer a deep and impressive insight into their world, culture and experiences over the past centuries and in the modern day.

Listen to these important voices by joining in on the celebration of Black Poetry Day!

How to Celebrate Black Poetry Day

Enjoy observing and celebrating Black Poetry Day with some of these interesting ideas:

Read Some Black Poetry

Traditionally, Black Poetry Day is celebrated by gathering together to enjoy a public event where poetry by a Black author is read out loud for everyone to enjoy. But for those who prefer to read poetry from a book instead of attending an event, perhaps it might be interesting to get some poetry collections and read from some of these famous poets:

  • Jupiter Hammon. Start with the person who the day was founded in honor of, the first Black person to be published in 1761. Though he was born into slavery in New York, Hammon had access to a library on the estate where he lived and he may have been educated with the estate owner’s children.
  • Lucille Clifton. This two time Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, Clifton is most celebrated for her work, Two Headed Woman, written in 1978.
  • Margaret Walker. A novelist and poet, Walker was part of the Chicago Black Renaissance and published a collection of poems in 1942 called For My People, which led her to become the first Black woman to win a national prize for writing.
  • Amanda Gorman. Most notable for her poetry reading at the 2021 US Presidential inauguration, Gorman was only 22-years old at the time she read The Hill We Climb in front of the watching world.

Attend a Black Poetry Reading or Event 

In honor of Black Poetry Day, it’s likely the local bookshops, schools or libraries may host events such as poetry readings. This might also happen in jazz clubs or even at an open mic night. Check out the local community page or bulletin board to get more information on what types of poetry readings, recitals or slams might be happening nearby and see about attending one.

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