What are some good African American heritage poems?


Quick Answer

Many poems explore the African American experience, including W.E.B. Du Bois' "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Langston Hughes' "I, Too." Many poems relating to African American heritage emerged from the Harlem Renaissance, with poets like Claude McKay and Countee Cullen.

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Full Answer

African American poetry has taken on history and heritage as one its major themes. Many poems were written after World War I, but contemporary poets, including Terrance Hayes and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway, continue exploring these ideas.

Many poets explore African American heritage and social history: Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird" is perhaps one of the best-known poems about African American heritage, using the metaphor of a caged bird to explore the ongoing ramifications of slavery and segregation, while Rita Dove's "Canary" specifically addresses the heritage of African American women: "Fact is, the invention of women under siege / has been to sharpen love in the service of myth. / If you can’t be free, be a mystery."

Some other contemporary poems about African American heritage include Nikki Giovanni's "The Laws of Motion," which addresses African American history and heritage: "Black people are no less confused because of our / Blackness than we are diffused because of our / powerlessness."

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