Back Library of America launches nationwide celebration of African American poetry with major online event and new website

Presented by Library of America in partnership with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters is a yearlong national celebration of African American poetry and an exploration of the perspectives it offers on American history and the ongoing struggle for racial justice.

African American Poetry:
250 Years of Struggle & Song
The celebration is anchored by the publication of the new Library of America anthology African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, edited by Kevin Young, the director of the Schomburg Center and poetry editor of The New Yorker, who also serves as principal humanities advisor on the project. (Watch Kevin Young’s introduction to Lift Every Voice and the anthology below.)

Lift Every Voice launches this Thursday, September 17, with a free online event hosted by the Schomburg Center. The evening will feature:

• Readings and remarks by Jericho Brown, DéLana R.A. Dameron, Toi Derricotte, Nikky Finney, Joanne V. Gabbin, Patricia Spears Jones, Tyehimba Jess, Jessica Care Moore, Sonia Sanchez, Danez Smith, Afaa Michael Weaver, Kamasi Washington, and Kevin Young

• Special appearances by Phylicia Rashad, Elizabeth Alexander, Mahershala Ali, Kamasi Washington, and other guests

The initiative continues with additional flagship events from the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, the Chicago Public Library; the Los Angeles Public Library; and the Kansas City Public Library. Library of America has also awarded forty-nine libraries and other institutions in twenty-four states grants for public programing with poets and scholars, to be presented from September 2020 through February 2021.

Listings for all of these free public events will be found on, the Lift Every Voice companion website that also debuts this week. The site will feature video readings and commentary, a timeline of the African American poetic tradition, detailed biographies of key poets within the tradition, and many more resources intended for students and general readers alike.

Lift Every Voice is made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Emerson Collective and is presented in partnership with The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Other partners include the Poetry Foundation, the National Book Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, Poets House, Cave Canem, and the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics.

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