Poets and Poems in the Fiery Trial

On Liberty and Slavery by George Moses Horton (1828)

Learn more about George Moses Horton here.

“Learning poetry and snippets of literature through clandestine means as a teen, Horton composed poems in his mind. As a young adult, Horton delivered produce to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he composed and recited poems for students. Some of his compositions were transcribed by students…”

Away to Canada by Joshua McCarter Simpson (1852)

Learn more about Joshua McCarter Simpson here.

“Born free in Morgan County, Ohio, and bound as a laborer until age 21, Simpson survived a difficult childhood. He attended school for only three months but taught himself to write. Within 10 years of publicly singing his first poem in 1842, he had published a pamphlet of antislavery songs.”

The Slave Auction by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1854)

Learn more about Frances Ellen Watkins Harper here.

“Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at age 20 and her first novel, the widely praised Iola Leroy, at age 67. In 1850, she became the first woman to teach sewing at the Union Seminary. In 1851, alongside William Still, chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, she helped escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. She began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1853.”

Remember by Langston Hughes (1930)

Learn more about Langston Hughes here.

“His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working-class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Permeating his work is pride in the African-American identity and its diverse culture. “My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind,” Hughes is quoted as saying. He confronted racial stereotypes, protested social conditions, and expanded African America’s image of itself; a “people’s poet” who sought to reeducate both audience and artist by lifting the theory of the black aesthetic into reality. Hughes stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism devoid of self-hate. His thought united people of African descent and Africa across the globe to encourage pride in their diverse black folk culture and black aesthetic. Hughes was one of the few prominent black writers to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists.”

I, Too by Langston Hughes (1945)

Perhaps in response to Walt Whitman’s I Hear America Singing (1860)

The Blue Seuss by Terrance Hayes (2006)

Learn more about Terrance Hayes here and here.

“In praising Hayes’s work, Cornelius Eady has said: “First you’ll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase. Then you’ll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world.” In September 2014, he was honored as one of the 21 2014 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The fellowship comes with a $625,000 stipend over five years and is one of the most prestigious prizes that is awarded for artists, scholars and professionals.”


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