Black Poetry Day is celebrated every year on October 17 to honor all the talented African American poets, both past and present. If you’re a literature enthusiast, poet, or writer — no matter your race — you’ll absolutely love Black Poetry Day where you can celebrate black heritage and history. Black Poetry Day is celebrated in commemoration of the birth of the man popularly referred to as the father of African American literature, Jupiter Hammon, the first published black poet in the United States of America. Black Poetry Day is a day to recognize the contributions of black poets to literature and celebrate the black experience as retold in poetry.
History of Black Poetry Day
In 1970, a folk musician, Stanley A. Ransom, proposed that October 17 be set aside as a day to celebrate black culture and literature. Black Poetry Day was created in 1985 to honor the birth of the pioneer Black poet in the United States, Jupiter Hammon, and call attention to the literary works and accomplishments of African-American writers.
Hammon was born during the time of slavery on October 17, 1711, at the Lloyd Manor in Long Island. His masters, The Lloyds, allowed him to receive some education through the Anglican Church’s Society for The Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Hammon took advantage of this education and created poetry that was supported with layered metaphors and symbols. In 1761, when he was nearly 50, Jupiter Hammon published his first poem called “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries.” As a respected preacher and clerk, his poems about slavery received wide circulation. Eighteen years after his first poem was published, Jupiter Hammon got a second poem published, “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley.” Wheatley was the first published black female author and Jupiter Hammon admired her and encouraged her with a dedication poem.
Hammon recognized the need to support and encourage other black writers like himself, especially at a time where black writers rarely received the support their white counterparts did. Today, there are thousands of talented black poets around the world writing about both the shared black experience and their own unique experiences through different forms including written poetry, rap, and spoken-word poetry. While Black Poetry Day is celebrated throughout the United States, Oregon is the only state to designate it as a state holiday.
Black Poetry Day timeline
Jupiter Hammon is born as a slave in Long Island in the United States on October 17, 1711.
Lucy Terry’s “Bar Fight” is the first known poem written by a black poet, published in 1855.
Jupiter Hammon’s poem “An Evening Thought” becomes the first published poem by a Black American
In 1770, Philis Wheatly publishes her first poem and, three years later, a volume of verses.
Black Poetry Day FAQs
When is National Poetry Day?
National Poetry Day is a British day of observance celebrating poetic verse on the first Thursday of October every year in the U.K. The day was established by William Sieghart, who also founded The Forward Prizes for Poetry.
Which is Poetry Day?
Poetry is celebrated all around the world on World Poetry Day, which falls on March 21 every year. The day was declared by UNESCO to support and promote the reading, writing, teaching, and publishing of poetry throughout the world.
What is black poetry all about?
Black poetry simply refers to any poem written by an African American in the United States. While black poetry does not necessarily have to be about slavery, revolution, segregation, or the equal rights movement, it is often inevitably linked to the experiences of African Americans and their racial history in America.
Black Poetry Day Activities
Support a Black poet
What better day to support the many talented black poets around you than on Black Poetry Day? Pick up the works of a new black poet. Share your favorite poetry from African American writers. Donate to a black literary magazine.
Host a poetry reading
Allow people to discover underrated black poets by organizing a poetry reading or poetry slam and inviting everyone you know.
Attend a predominantly black poetry slam
If you can’t organize a poetry slam, you can certainly attend one. Diversify your reading and learn more about the black experience and heritage by attending a poetry slam with predominantly black headliners.
5 Black Poets Whose Works You Need To Read
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Dunbar was one of the first black poets to gain national recognition in America and had already published some of his poems by the age of 14 — you might have once heard or read the opening line of one of his most famous poems called “Sympathy”: I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
Langston Hughes is one of the fathers of the literary art form called jazz poetry — he wrote his first piece of jazz poetry, “When Sue Wears Red,” while he was still in high school.
Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African-American ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for her poetry book “Annie Allen,” where she speaks about the life of an African-American girl growing to adulthood.
You probably know Alice Walker from her Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Color Purple” but Walker isn’t just a brilliant novelist; she is also a striking poet, whose works often comment on some of the experiences of black women.
Angelou uses her captivating poetry to kickstart conversations on race, sex, oppression, and loss — her most famous poem is “On The Pulse of Morning,” which she recited at the U.S. President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
Why We Love Black Poetry Day
We discover new poets
Discovering a talented new poet is always an exciting prospect. There is no better day for you to discover fresh new poets and poetry than on Black Poetry Day.
We hear different voices
The key to a balanced worldview is to listen to different voices. Black Poetry Day highlights diverse new voices to tell different stories than the ones we experience in our own lives.
It celebrates historically marginalized voices
Black people are a historically marginalized group. When white writers were gaining global success, many black people were being flogged for simply learning to read or write in English whenever they could. Black Poetry Day allows us to celebrate the resilience of Black poets and recognize the achievements of Black writers around the world.
Black Poetry Day dates