Welcome: African American Poetry--a Digital Anthology
The aspiration is to provide access to a comprehensive collection of Black poetry from this crucial period, with contextual information, author pages, and curated mini-collections for teachers and students. As of June 2022, this site contains the full text of 38 books of poetry (including anthologies as well as single-author books), and a growing collection of periodical poetry from African American magazines like The Crisis, Opportunity, The Messenger, and Negro World. The anthology contains substantial collections by major authors like Langston Hughes, Jessie Fauset, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen, but also materials by writers who have been often overlooked by scholars. By putting all of these materials together on a single site -- a project somewhere between a traditional anthology and a textual corpus -- we hope to give readers new angles on a vast and important literary movement that has sometimes been painted a bit narrowly and simplistically.
All poems on this site are in the public domain. We have brought together material from digital editions in two other digital projects, "Claude McKay's Early Poetry," and "Women of the Early Harlem Renaissance," and also taken advantage of new materials entering the public domain, including Langston Hughes' The Weary Blues (1926), and Countee Cullen's Color (1925). Other materials intended for inclusion in this project include the poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Olivia Ward Bush-Banks, Georgia Douglas Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, Alice Dunbar Nelson, and William Stanley Braithwaite, among many others.
The Harlem Renaissance: This site can be used as an archive of Harlem Renaissance poetry, especially in its early phases. See our introductory overview and timeline of the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance. Also see: Black Poetry Before the Harlem Renaissance, which is a good introductory guide for the extensive array of materials on this site dated before 1922.
Anthologies: There were at least four major anthologies devoted to African American literature that appeared between 1922 and 1926, and they played a major role in the creation of what would later be called the "Harlem Renaissance." Of these, two were edited by Black critics, James Weldon Johnson's Book of American Negro Poetry and Alain Locke's The New Negro: an Interpretation.
A third volume appeared in 1924, edited by a trio of professors, with Newman Ivey White as the lead editor: An Anthology of Verse by American Negroes. Finally, an idiosyncratic but enthusiastic contribution appeared in 1923, by the white editor and activist Robert T. Kerlin, Negro Poets and their Poems. Here, we are including the poems printed in these anthologies alongside full books of poetry published by Black authors. There is significant overlap between the anthologies, though the differences are also instructive.
Periodicals: (See African American Poetry: a Story of Magazines.) This project aims to include and index periodical publication of poetry by Black writers from this period. The largest and perhaps the most important collection developed thus far might be the collection of poems published in The Crisis between 1910 and 1926; that collection can be found here. Also, our collection of poems published in Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life (1923-1926) can be found here.
We have also added a plain text version of the November, 1926 issue of Fire!! Devoted to the Younger Negro Artists, a magazine edited by Wallace Thurman, with poetry by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Helene Johnson, Arna Bontemps, and others, along with short stories by Thurman, Gwendolen Bennett, and Zora Neale Hurston. We are also starting the process of working through issues of Negro World (esp. the "Poetry for the People" column that regularly appeared in 1920-1921), and The Messenger, to discover and transcribe poetry found there.
Finally, we have been developing a collection of poetry for children from The Brownies' Book, a magazine edited by Du Bois and Fauset that ran between 1920-1921.
Areas of Interest (Thematic Tags): As we add individual poems to the anthology, we are marking them with thematic tags as appropriate; this allows readers to find poems by area of interest -- which might be especially valuable for students. Here are some relevant tags: African American Poetry of World War I, Race, Sonnet, Slavery, Racism, Interracial, Harlem, Music, Motherhood, Lynching, Dance, Africa, Caribbean, Intertextual, Labor, Black Vernacular (AAVE), Religion, Labor, Travel/Migration, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Poetry for children.
Accessibility and Rights: The poems and images on this site are all understood to be in the public domain. The site itself is attributed to Amardeep Singh on a Creative Commons "Attribution" basis, with contributions from students whose works appear with permission and full attribution. All poems on this site can be downloaded in plain text format from a publicly-accessible Google Drive folder here.
Latest edits made: July, 2022
Project Editor: Amardeep Singh, Professor of English, Lehigh University.
Email amsp [at] lehigh.edu
Editorial team and acknowledgments: Students contributing to components of this project include: Heather Simoneau (2015), Hannah Provost (2020), Amira Shokr (2020), Joanna Grim (2017), and Christian Farrior (2022). This project was supported by a grant from the Mellon Humanities Lab at Lehigh University, a Mellon-funded grant, in the summer of 2022.