African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Welcome: African American Poetry--a Digital Anthology

This digital anthology is an open-access resource for students, teachers, and researchers interested in African American poetry, published roughly between 1870 and 1927. The full-text materials on this site can be accessed in several different ways -- either directly (Full Text Collections), or via Author Pages, historical context, periodical name, or thematic tag. 

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What's here -- at a glance: 
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African American Poetry: a Digital Anthology aims to provide access to a comprehensive collection of Black poetry from a crucial historical period. As of summer 2023, this site contains full text versions of about 90 books of poetry (including anthologies as well as single-author books), and a substantial collection of periodical poetry from African American magazines like The Crisis, Opportunity, The Messengerand Negro World. (See our Note on Historical Language.) The anthology contains substantial collections by major authors like Langston Hughes, Jessie Fauset, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen, but also materials by many lesser-known writers. By putting all of these materials together on a single site -- a project somewhere between an "anthology," an "archive" and a textual corpus --  we hope to give readers new angles of approach to an important literary movement. 

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 Alain Locke's anthology The New Negro (1925), Langston Hughes' The Weary Blues (1926), and Countee Cullen's Color (1925). 

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:  (See African American Poetry: Anthologies of the 1920s) There were several major anthologies devoted to African American literature that appeared between 1922 and 1927, and they played a major role in the creation of the Harlem Renaissance. Of these, three were edited by Black critics, James Weldon Johnson's Book of American Negro Poetry Alain Locke's The New Negro: an Interpretation, and Countee Cullen's Caroling Dusk 
Additional volumes appeared in 1923 and 1924. 1924 saw a collection 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 PoemsHere, 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.  

We have also added a plain text version of the November, 1926 issue of Fire!! Devoted to the Younger Negro Artistsa magazine edited by Wallace Thurman, with poetry by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Helene Johnson, Arna Bontemps, and others, along with short stories by Thurman, Gwendolyn 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' Booka magazine edited by Du Bois and Fauset that ran between 1920-1921.

Areas of Interest (Thematic Tags): (See Areas of Interest: Topics and Themes) 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 sample thematic tags: African American Poetry of World War I, Civil War, Motherhood, Slavery, Progress/Protest/Racial Uplift, Interracial/Multiracial Themes, HBCU.  (You'll see many others if you click on 'Areas of Interest: Topics and Themes')

Datasets: In summer 2023, we've begun to explore datasets related to African American poetry, with an interest in the size and scale of the publishing community and industry, its evolution over time, gender dynamics of African American poetry publishing, and geographic distruction. Some of our preliminary explorations can be found here.

About This Site: Origins, Methods, and a Mission Statement: A more detailed account of the origin story of this project, including predecessor projects, our methods and sources, and a general sense of what we are aiming for. 

A Note on Historical Language: An explainer by the site editor regarding this use of historical identifiers for race, such as "Negro," "Black," and "African American."

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: June 2023

Project Editor: Amardeep Singh, Professor of English, Lehigh University.
Email amsp [at] 

Editorial team and acknowledgments:  Students contributing to components of this project include: Heather Simoneau (2015), Hannah Provost (2020), Amira Shokr (2020), Joanna Grim (2017), Christian Farrior (2022), and Miranda Alvarez Guillen (2023). This project was supported by a grant from the Mellon Humanities Lab at Lehigh University, a Mellon-funded grant, in the summer of 2022, and an internal Faculty Research Grant in the summer of 2023.  

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