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African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927

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Rich selection of 74 poems ranging from the religious and moral verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (ca. 1753–1784) to 20th-century work of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Other contributors include James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, many others. Indispensable for students of the black experience in America and any lover of fine poetry. Includes 4 selections from Rich selection of 74 poems ranging from the religious and moral verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (ca. 1753–1784) to 20th-century work of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Other contributors include James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, many others. Indispensable for students of the black experience in America and any lover of fine poetry. Includes 4 selections from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.


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Rich selection of 74 poems ranging from the religious and moral verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (ca. 1753–1784) to 20th-century work of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Other contributors include James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, many others. Indispensable for students of the black experience in America and any lover of fine poetry. Includes 4 selections from Rich selection of 74 poems ranging from the religious and moral verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (ca. 1753–1784) to 20th-century work of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Other contributors include James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, many others. Indispensable for students of the black experience in America and any lover of fine poetry. Includes 4 selections from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

30 review for African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927

  1. 5 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    It’s difficult to rate a collection or an anthology of anything given the diversity of the material, but I’d say this collection was a solid 3 star read. Some poets and their works were extraordinary and became some of my favorite poems of all time. However, as the collection progressed, I enjoyed some of the more Christian and religious poetry even less over time. Majority of my appreciation was for the critique of the Western civilization and what it is has done to the African cultures and its It’s difficult to rate a collection or an anthology of anything given the diversity of the material, but I’d say this collection was a solid 3 star read. Some poets and their works were extraordinary and became some of my favorite poems of all time. However, as the collection progressed, I enjoyed some of the more Christian and religious poetry even less over time. Majority of my appreciation was for the critique of the Western civilization and what it is has done to the African cultures and its people. If you’re looking for a place to start reading African American poetry, this is a nice read. But as a slightly more advanced reader, I wanted something more fulfilling. A few of my favorites from the collection: – Joshua McCarter Simpson: To the White People of America – James Monroe Whitfield: How Long? – Claude McKay: Enslaved, If We Must Die, and Harlem Dancer. – By Phillis Wheatley, an all-time favorite I adore rereading: On Being Brought From Africa To America – Another all-item favorite is Langston Hughes: I, Too and The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Phillis Wheatley Peters (1753?-1784) was a young slave brought from Africa to Boston in 1761. She became well-educated and once met George Washington in a private meeting. George Moses Horton (1797?-1883?) was a North Carolina slave for 66 years. On Liberty and Slavery by George Moses Horton Alas! and am I born for this, To wear this slavish chain? Deprived of all created bliss, Through hardship, toil and pain! How long have I in bondage lain, And languished to be free! Alas! and must I still complain— D Phillis Wheatley Peters (1753?-1784) was a young slave brought from Africa to Boston in 1761. She became well-educated and once met George Washington in a private meeting. George Moses Horton (1797?-1883?) was a North Carolina slave for 66 years. On Liberty and Slavery by George Moses Horton Alas! and am I born for this, To wear this slavish chain? Deprived of all created bliss, Through hardship, toil and pain! How long have I in bondage lain, And languished to be free! Alas! and must I still complain— Deprived of liberty. Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief This side the silent grave— To soothe the pain—to quell the grief And anguish of a slave? Come Liberty, thou cheerful sound, Roll through my ravished ears! Come, let my grief in joys be drowned, And drive away my fears. Say unto foul oppression, Cease: Ye tyrants rage no more, And let the joyful trump of peace, Now bid the vassal soar. Soar on the pinions of that dove Which long has cooed for thee, And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove, The sound of Liberty. Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize, So often sought by blood— We crave thy sacred sun to rise, The gift of nature’s God! Bid Slavery hide her haggard face, And barbarism fly: I scorn to see the sad disgrace In which enslaved I lie. Dear Liberty! upon thy breast, I languish to respire; And like the Swan unto her nest, I’d like to thy smiles retire. Oh, blest asylum—heavenly balm! Unto thy boughs I flee— And in thy shades the storm shall calm, With songs of Liberty! Joshua McCarter Simpson (1820?-1876) wrote satirical protest poems set to popular tunes and sung by fugitives on the Underground Railroad. Away to Canada by Joshua McCarter Simpson Sing to "O, Susannah" Adapted to the case of Mr. S., Fugitive from Tennessee. I’m on my way to Canada, That cold and dreary land; The dire effects of slavery, I can no longer stand. My soul is vexed within me so, To think that I’m a slave; I’ve now resolved to strike the blow For freedom or the grave. O righteous Father, Wilt thou not pity me? And aid me on to Canada, Where colored men are free. I heard Victoria plainly say, If we would all forsake Our native land of slavery, And come across the Lake. That she was standing on the shore, With arms extended wide, To give us all a peaceful home, Beyond the rolling tide. Farewell, old master! That’s enough for me— I’m going straight to Canada, Where colored men are free. I heard the old-soul driver say, As he was passing by, That darkey’s bound to run away, I see it in his eye. My heart responded to the charge, And thought it was no crime; And something seemed my mind to urge, That now’s the very time. O! old driver, Don’t you cry for me, I’m going up to Canada, Where colored men are free. Grieve not, my wife—grieve not for me, O! do not break my heart, For nought but cruel slavery Would cause me to depart. If I should stay to quell your grief, Your grief I would augment; For no one knows the day that we Asunder might be rent. O! Susannah, Don’t you cry for me— I’m going up to Canada, Where colored men are free. I heard old master pray last night— I heard him pray for me; That God would come, and in his might From Satan set me free; So I from Satan would escape, And flee the wrath to come— If there’s a fiend in human shape, Old master must be one. O! old master, While you pray for me, I’m doing all I can to reach The land of Liberty. Ohio’s not the place for me; For I was much surprised, So many of her sons to see In garments of disguise. Her name has gone out through the world, Free Labor, Soil, and Men; But slaves had better far be hurled Into the Lion’s Den. Farewell, Ohio! I am not safe in thee; I’ll travel on to Canada, Where colored men are free. I’ve now embarked for yonder shore, Where man’s a man by law, The vessel soon will bear me o’er, To shake the Lion’s paw. I no more dread the Auctioneer, Nor fear the master’s frowns, I no more tremble when I hear The beying negro-hounds. O! old Master, Don’t think hard of me— I’m just in sight of Canada, Where colored men are free. I’ve landed safe upon the shore, Both soul and body free; My blood and brain, and tears no more Will drench old Tennesse. But I behold the scalding tear, Now stealing from my eye, To think my wife—my only dear, A slave must live and die. O, Susannah! Don’t grieve after me— For ever at a throne of grace, I will remember thee. James Monroe Whitfield (1822-1871) wondered in a poem "How long, O gracious God! how long,/Shall power lord it over right?" before "all mankind, from bondage free,/Exult in glorious liberty." Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1824-1911) became famous and financially independent. Bury Me in a Free Land by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Make me a grave where’er you will, In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill; Make it among earth’s humblest graves, But not in a land where men are slaves. I could not rest if around my grave I heard the steps of a trembling slave; His shadow above my silent tomb Would make it a place of fearful gloom. I could not rest if I heard the tread Of a coffle gang to the shambles led, And the mother’s shriek of wild despair Rise like a curse on the trembling air. I could not sleep if I saw the lash Drinking her blood at each fearful gash, And I saw her babes torn from her breast, Like trembling doves from their parent nest. I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey, And I heard the captive plead in vain As they bound afresh his galling chain. If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms Bartered and sold for their youthful charms, My eye would flash with a mournful flame, My death-paled cheek grow red with shame. I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might Can rob no man of his dearest right; My rest shall be calm in any grave Where none can call his brother a slave. I ask no monument, proud and high, To arrest the gaze of the passers-by; All that my yearning spirit craves, Is bury me not in a land of slaves. James Madison Bell (1826-1902) was a plasterer from Ohio. Charlotte L. Forten Grimke (1837-1914) taught freed slaves in South Carolina. Alfred Islay Walden ( 1847?-1884) endured 18 years of slavery in North Carolina. He overcame destitution and blindness to earn a teaching degree at Howard University. Alberry Alston Whitman (1851-1901) was "the Poet Laureate of the Negro Race." He was born a slave and wrote epic length Romantic poems. Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1850?-1916) was a New York City school teacher for 30 years. George Marion McClellan (1860-1934) was a teacher and minister. He reminds us in a poem that "Christ washed the feet of Judas!" Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. (1861-1949) was a prominent educator. Josephine Delphine Henderson Heard (1861-1921) was the daughter of North Carolina slaves. They Are Coming by Josephine Delphine Henderson Heard They are coming, coming slowly — They are coming, surely, surely — In each avenue you hear the steady tread. From the depths of foul oppression, Comes a swarthy-hued procession, And victory perches on their banners' head. They are coming, coming slowly — They are coming; yes, the lowly, No longer writhing in their servile bands. From the rice fields and plantation Comes a factor of the nation, And threatening, like Banquo's ghost, it stands. They are coming, coming proudly They are crying, crying loudly: O, for justice from the rulers of the land! And that justice will be given, For the mighty God of heaven Holds the balances of power in his hand. Prayers have risen, risen, risen, From the cotton fields and prison; Though the overseer stood with lash in hand, Groaned the overburdened heart; Not a tear-drop dared to start — But the Slaves' petition reach'd the glory-land. They are coming, they are coming, From away in tangled swamp, Where the slimy reptile hid its poisonous head; Through the long night and the day, They have heard the bloodhounds' bay, While the morass furnished them an humble bed. They are coming, rising, rising, And their progress is surprising, By their brawny muscles earning daily bread; Though their wages be a pittance, Still each week a small remittance, Builds a shelter for the weary toiling head. They are coming, they are coming — Listen! You will hear the humming Of the thousands that are falling into line: There are Doctors, Lawyers, Preachers; There are Sculptors, Poets, Teachers — Men and women, who with honor yet shall shine. They are coming, coming boldly, Though the Nation greets them coldly; They are coming from the hillside and the plain. With their scars they tell the story Of the canebrakes wet and gory, Where their brothers' bones lie bleaching with the slain. They are coming, coming singing, Their Thanksgiving hymn is ringing. For the clouds are slowly breaking now away, And there comes a brighter dawning — It is liberty's fair morning, They are coming surely, coming, clear the way. Yes, they come, their stopping's steady, And their power is felt already — God has heard the lowly cry of the oppressed: And beneath his mighty frown, Every wrong shall crumble down, When the right shall triumph and the world be blest! Daniel Webster Davis (1862-1913) was a popular orator. Mary Weston Fordham (1862?-?) wrote poetry that resembled most 19th century sentimental poems. James Edwin Campbell (1867-1896) wrote folk verses in "Gullah" dialect. They are musical and original. He made fascinating use of dialect. James David Corrothers (1869-1919) also used dialect. An Indignation Dinner by James David Corrothers DEY was hard times jes fo’ Christmas round our neighborhood one year; So we held a secret meetin’, whah de white folks couldn’t hear, To ’scuss de situation, an’ to see what could be done Towa’d a fust-class Christmas dinneh an’ a little Christmas fun. Rufus Green, who called de meetin’, ris an’ said: “In dis here town, An’ throughout de land, de white folks is a-tryin’ to keep us down.” S’ ’e: “Dey’s bought us, sold us, beat us; now dey ’buse us ’ca’se we’s free; But when dey tetch my stomach, dey’s done gone too fur foh me! “Is I right?” “You sho is, Rufus!” roared a dozen hungry throats. “Ef you’d keep a mule a-wo’kin’, don’t you tamper wid his oats. Dat’s sense,” continued Rufus. “But dese white folks nowadays Has done got so close and stingy you can’t live on what dey pays. “Here ’tis Christmas-time, an’, folkses, I’s indignant ’nough to choke. Whah’s our Christmas dinneh comin’ when we’s ’mos’ completely broke? I can’t hahdly ’fo’d a toothpick an’ a glass o’ water. Mad? Say, I’m desp’ret! Dey jes better treat me nice, dese white folks had!” Well, dey ’bused de white folks scan’lous, till old Pappy Simmons ris, Leanin’ on his cane to s’pote him, on account his rheumatis’, An’ s’ ’e: “Chilun, whut’s dat wintry wind a-sighin’ th’ough de street ’Bout yo’ wasted summeh wages? But, no matter, we mus’ eat. “Now, I seed a beau’ful tuhkey on a certain gemmun’s fahm. He’s a-growin’ fat an’ sassy, an’ a-struttin’ to a chahm. Chickens, sheeps, hogs, sweet pertaters—all de craps is fine dis year; All we needs is a committee foh to tote de goodies here.” Well, we lit right in an’ voted dat it was a gran idee, An’ de dinneh we had Christmas was worth trabblin’ miles to see; An’ we eat a full an’ plenty, big an’ little, great an’ small, Not beca’se we was dishonest, but indignant, sah. Dat’s all. James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was a man of many talents who worked for the NAACP. He once asked this question: O black and unknown bards of long ago, How came your lips to touch the sacred fire? Priscilla Jane Thompson (1871-1942) and her siblings published seven volumes of verse. Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) published prolifically. He described a lynching in "The Haunted Oak." Anne Spencer [Annie Bethel Scales Bannister] (1882-1975) won national attention in the 1920s. Claude McKay (1890-1948) wrote a history of Harlem. If We Must Die by Claude McKay If we must die, let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursèd lot. If we must die, O let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead! O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe! Though far outnumbered let us show us brave, And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow! What though before us lies the open grave? Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! Jean Toomer (1894-1967) is best known for the experimental Cane. Her Lips are Copper Wire by Jean Toomer whisper of yellow globes gleaming on lamp-posts that sway like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog and let your breath be moist against me like bright beads on yellow globes telephone the power-house that the main wires are insulate (her words play softly up and down dewy corridors of billboards) then with your tongue remove the tape and press your lips to mine till they are incandescent Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was called "the poet laureate of Harlem." Countee Cullen (1903-1946) taught French in New York City.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patrice Jones

    This poetry collection was wonderful. A great place to start with African American poetry because of the various names and types of poetry. It has famous names and not-so-famous names. It has poetry of faith, determination, survival, and experience. It is both happy poetry and sad poetry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sharrice

    Best poerty book I've read so far this year.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    Meaningful poems about the African-American Experience -- with little snippets of history about the poets represented.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    decent selection of some lovely works (spanning 1773-1927) - another simple, sweet Dover Thrift edition

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927, is a slim volume which gives a taste of the African American experience from the dawning of the Revolution to the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance. There are many fine pieces found within, and it is interesting to see the attitudes change over time, such as when Phillis Wheatley, an Eighteenth Century slave, expresses gratitude for have left Africa to learn about Christ (“On Being Brought from Africa to America”), gives way to Langston Hughes’s r African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927, is a slim volume which gives a taste of the African American experience from the dawning of the Revolution to the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance. There are many fine pieces found within, and it is interesting to see the attitudes change over time, such as when Phillis Wheatley, an Eighteenth Century slave, expresses gratitude for have left Africa to learn about Christ (“On Being Brought from Africa to America”), gives way to Langston Hughes’s romanticism of his ancestral roots in the continent’s past “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”). The only grievance which I can muster lies in a lack of notation that may have given many of the poems their proper context. This is especially so in the many dialectical poems where frames of reference would have been helpful. In particular, James Edwin Campbell’s “The Cunjah Man” was so dialectically dense that I had to read it several times to get even a sense of what the subject was. As it stands, I am not sure the “Cunjah Man” is a hoodoo conjurer, the Devil, or something entirely unrelated.

  8. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    As an academic exercise, this collection is easily successful in its goal: offering the reader a brief glimpse at various African-American poets over the last few centuries. Although it gives short thrift to the 20th century once we get to that point, it does what is says. Unfortunately, most of the poems presented here are pretty terrible. Now, I am not a fan of traditional, narrative, polemical rhyming poetry which is what most of this is, so many better poetry aficionados besides me might fin As an academic exercise, this collection is easily successful in its goal: offering the reader a brief glimpse at various African-American poets over the last few centuries. Although it gives short thrift to the 20th century once we get to that point, it does what is says. Unfortunately, most of the poems presented here are pretty terrible. Now, I am not a fan of traditional, narrative, polemical rhyming poetry which is what most of this is, so many better poetry aficionados besides me might find much of value here, I just didn't enjoy the poetry so much, save for the Langston Hughes and a few early 20th century selections.

  9. 5 out of 5

    India Lavoyce

    Deep & emotional, especially for me. I'm a black woman born, raised, & still living in Alabama. I know innocent blood was shed like crazy in this State & in this Country. It's still happening & it's still legal. Deep & emotional, especially for me. I'm a black woman born, raised, & still living in Alabama. I know innocent blood was shed like crazy in this State & in this Country. It's still happening & it's still legal.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Owen

    A nice smattering of poets at a reasonable price. Good for sometime who wants an introduction to African Poetry from the late 18th century through the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily Dybdahl

    Beautiful poetry, both the regular and the dialect.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Great poems about slavery, and the black americans struggle against marginalization by the White Majority

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dayna Smith

    A wonderful collection of African American poets and their wonderful contribution to literature in America. A must read for poetry fans everywhere.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Good, of course, but I want to know more about the lesser known poets.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    The fact that I was expecting all (or most) of the poems to deal with slavery and how hard it is to be Black in America is probably me being a little racist. Which is part of the point of reading this in the first place - helping to check those expectations and my own biases. I was honestly surprised (though pleasantly) by how many of these poems were just... poems, and had pretty imagery or humor in them. Obviously quite a few of them dealt with the concepts of freedom and bondage, and I think t The fact that I was expecting all (or most) of the poems to deal with slavery and how hard it is to be Black in America is probably me being a little racist. Which is part of the point of reading this in the first place - helping to check those expectations and my own biases. I was honestly surprised (though pleasantly) by how many of these poems were just... poems, and had pretty imagery or humor in them. Obviously quite a few of them dealt with the concepts of freedom and bondage, and I think those were more what I was expecting when I picked up the book, but always important to get that reality check that Black people (and Black art) are not a monolith and are not limited to what we "expect." Favorite poem: Would have to be a toss-up. I've always loved 'We Wear The Mask,' but knew nothing about Paul Laurence Dunbar, and was delighted to see it here. I also enjoyed James David Curruther's 'De Black Cat Crossed His Luck' (I have a black cat, so it struck me as particularly humorous), and Jean Toomer's 'Her Lips Are Copper Wire' was just gorgeous. Also, does anyone know what a 'cunjah man' is? Is that an old-timey slur? Google had no information for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anaïs

    I wish this was the type of books mandatory for High school readings and these were the poems we attempted to dissect. Amazing collection that leaves you wanting more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kassy MacPherson

    What a great collection of African-American poetry from 1773-1927! I think this is a very important book to read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chandra Nelson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Marshall

  21. 5 out of 5

    Neamhain Hughes

  22. 5 out of 5

    johnika harmon

  23. 5 out of 5

    Greg Tuttle

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christian Holland

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

  27. 4 out of 5

    Persha Wake

  28. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Frazier

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eileenmarks8

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