Back African American Poetry: An Anthology from the Beginnings to Now
Phillis Wheatley: detail from frontispiece of Poems on Various Subjects.

LOA seeks project support to bring long-overdue recognition to the enduring poetry by African American writers.

Why this book is needed:
The voices of African American poets are an essential part of the nation’s literary legacy and a rich document of the African American experience. However, no collection has yet done justice to the full scope, artistic range, and glories of African American poetry.

Anthologies of American poetry that haven’t been outright exclusionary have presented a very basic and limited selection, often reflecting a lack of thorough knowledge of the field. And despite the fact that poetry is a central art form in the African American tradition, it has gotten short scholarly shrift even within African American studies over the last twenty-five years, as critics and anthologists have focused instead on fiction. 

Library of America aims to fill this void by creating the first comprehensive collection that spans the entire tradition of African American poetry. African American Poetry: An Anthology from the Beginnings to Now would be an enormous contribution to American letters that would go far in correcting our vision of the American poetic tradition.

Project plan:
The forthcoming LOA collection, edited by distinguished poet and scholar of American poetry Kevin Young, will embrace the entire wide-ranging tradition of African American poetry from its eighteenth-century beginnings to the present, and will be representative of many styles, schools, periods, and regions. Familiar poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and other acknowledged greats will appear alongside less familiar and newly discovered works in a handsomely produced, textually authoritative volume that features photographs of the poets and introductions that provide important historical and literary context for each poet.

Once the book is published, Library of America plans to create a national outreach program of readings, discussions with local poets, and workshops that will help readers in communities across the United States to explore the African American poetic tradition.

To support this forthcoming Library of America project, please contact Caroline Horn, Director of Institutional Advancement, at chorn@loa.org or 212-308-3360.

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