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Beautiful Quotes From Black Poets

It’s only in the last century or two, at most, that Black poets have begun to be more widely recognized for their work. Exceptions exist, but they are scarce. Juan Latino, for example, is often considered the first person of sub-Saharan African descent to publish a book of poems in any Western language; the son of enslaved workers, he published three volumes of Latin verse between 1573 and 1585.

Later, in 1773, Phillis Wheatley — who was born in West Africa, sold into slavery, and transported to Boston — became the first African American author to publish a book of poetry, her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

Things have changed since Wheatley’s time, albeit much too slowly. The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ‘30s, led by such renowned writers as Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, helped bring about an intellectual and cultural revival of Black American arts, including poetry.

In the decades since, Black poets have often been social activists as well as authors, using their work to further the fight for racial equality in America and beyond. Maya Angelou, for example, was a celebrated memoirist and poet as well as a civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Through their words, these influential Black poets reflected the shared experiences of their readers, giving voice to issues and feelings that previously went unheard. Audre Lorde’s protest poems of the 1970s are a prime example of this — as she said, “I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”

Here is a collection of quotes from famous Black poets past and present, from Langston Hughes to Amanda Gorman.


An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.
Langston Hughes

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Langston Hughes was a poet and social activist best known as a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance.

We don’t ask a flower any special reason for its existence. We just look at it and are able to accept it as being something different from ourselves.
Gwendolyn Brooks

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Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet and author who became the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize, which she was awarded the honor for her 1949 book of poetry, Annie Allen.

Art is not escape, but a way of finding order in chaos, a way of confronting life.
Robert Hayden

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Robert Hayden was a poet and professor who, in 1976, became the first African American to serve as the Library of Congress’ consultant in poetry — a position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate.

Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.
Derek Walcott

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Derek Walcott was a Saint Lucian poet and playwright who received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature; his most acclaimed work is the epic poem Omeros.

There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
Chinua Achebe

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Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian novelist and poet, is regarded as the dominant figure of modern African literature. His most famous work is his 1958 novel Things Fall Apart.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou was a memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist best known for her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her popular poetry led her to be known as “the Black woman's poet laureate.”

When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision — then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
Audre Lorde

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Audre Lorde was a writer, feminist, and civil rights activist who dedicated her life and work to fighting against the injustices of racism, sexism, homophobia, and more.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
Alice Walker

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Alice Walker is an American novelist, poet, and social activist who became the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, for her novel The Color Purple.

If only the sun-drenched celebrities are being noticed and worshiped, then our children are going to have a tough time seeing value in the shadows, where the thinkers, probers, and scientists are keeping society together.
Rita Dove

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Rita Dove is a poet and essayist who received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987.

We live in a world requiring light and Darkness … partnership and solitude … sameness and difference … the familiar and the unknown … We love because it’s the only true adventure.
Nikki Giovanni

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Nikki Giovanni is a poet, writer, and activist whose poems have won numerous awards, including a Grammy Award for her poetry album, The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection.

The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
Amanda Gorman

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Amanda Gorman is an award-winning poet and activist, America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, and the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.

Featured image credit: Agence Opale/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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