Black Poetry Day is celebrated every year on October 17 to honor all the talented African American poets, both past and present. If you’re a literature enthusiast, poet, or writer — no matter your race — you’ll absolutely love Black Poetry Day where you can celebrate black heritage and history. Black Poetry Day is celebrated in commemoration of the birth of the man popularly referred to as the father of African American literature, Jupiter Hammon, the first published black poet in the United States of America. Black Poetry Day is a day to recognize the contributions of black poets to literature and celebrate the black experience as retold in poetry.
HISTORY OF BLACK POETRY DAY
In 1970, a folk musician, Stanley A. Ransom, proposed that October 17 be set aside as a day to celebrate black culture and literature. Black Poetry Day was created in 1985 to honor the birth of the pioneer Black poet in the United States, Jupiter Hammon, and call attention to the literary works and accomplishments of African-American writers. Hammon was born during the time of slavery on October 17, 1711, at the Lloyd Manor in Long Island. His masters, The Lloyds, allowed him to receive some education through the Anglican Church’s Society for The Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
Hammon took advantage of this education and created poetry that was supported with layered metaphors and symbols. In 1761, when he was nearly 50, Jupiter Hammon published his first poem called “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries.” As a respected preacher and clerk, his poems about slavery received wide circulation. Eighteen years after his first poem was published, Jupiter Hammon got a second poem published, “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley.”
Wheatley was the first published black female author and Jupiter Hammon admired her and encouraged her with a dedication poem.Hammon recognized the need to support and encourage other black writers like himself, especially at a time where black writers rarely received the support their white counterparts did.
Today, there are thousands of talented black poets around the world writing about both the shared black experience and their own unique experiences through different forms including written poetry, rap, and spoken-word poetry. While Black Poetry Day is celebrated throughout the United States, Oregon is the only state to designate it as a state holiday.
Jupiter Hammon was born as a slave in Long Island in the United States on October 17, 1711.
First-Known Poem by a Black Poet
Lucy Terry’s “Bar Fight” is the first known poem written by a black poet, published in 1855.
Jupiter Hammon’s Poem is Published
Jupiter Hammon’s poem “An Evening Thought” becomes the first published poem by a Black American
Phillis Wheatley Emerges
In 1770, Philis Wheatly publishes her first poem and, three years later, a volume of verses.