Dictionary of Literary Biography

Twenty-First Century African American Poets

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About this Resource

The DLB presentation of African American Poets in the twenty-first century, overseen by cluster editor Kwame Dawes, features literary biographies of more than fifty poets who are charting new directions for an innovative and evolving literary movement.

As meaningful as the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement were to African American aesthetics in the twentieth century, the institutional interventions in the 1990s have connected the elders of the African American tradition to younger emerging voices in the new century, heightening a sense of literary community while embracing the wider world of African diaspora poetics.

Other important forces shaping the movement include the emergence of Black publishing houses, literary journals devoted to Black poetry, and the influential spoken-word movement, driven by open-mic events, poetry slams, and “Def” poetry projects across the country. This vibrant movement is best appreciated through the lives and work of the individual writers.

Shaped by remarkable social and political developments, from the election of the first Black president of the United States to the Black Lives Matter response to police violence, a generation of African American poets have found meaningful ways to assert their voices.

Featured Interview

Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes, Cluster Editor

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His most recent books are Speak from Here to There, a cowritten collection of verse with Australian poet John Kinsella, and City of Bones: A Testament, both published in 2017. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska and the Pacific MFA Program.  He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival.

Browse Authors

Chris Abani (b. 1966)

Samiya Bashir (b. 1970)

Mahogany Browne (b. 1976)

Kyle Dargan (b. 1980)

Toi Derricotte (b. 1951)

Rita Dove (b. 1952)

Camille Dungy (b. 1972)

Nikky Finney (b. 1957)

Ross Gay (b. 1974)

Nikki Giovanni (b. 1943)

Aracelis Girmay (b. 1977)

Rachel Eliza Griffiths (b. 1978)

francine j. harris (b. 1972?)

Terrance Hayes (b. 1971)

Erica Hunt (b. 1955)

Jayne Cortez (1934–2012)

Patricia Spears Jones (b. 1951)

Doug Kearney (b. 1974)

Yusef Komunyakaa (b. 1947)

Haki R. Madhubuti (b. 1942)

Shara McCallum (b. 1972)

Fred Moten (b. 1962)

John Murillo (b. 1971)

Brenda Marie Osbey (b. 1957)

Gregory Pardlo (b. 1968)

Morgan Parker (b. 1987)

Willie Perdomo (b. 1967)

Khadijah Queen (b. 1976)

Ed Roberson (b. 1939)

Michael S. Harper (1938–2016)

Sonia Sanchez (b. 1934)

Tim Siebles (b. 1955)

Danez Smith (b. 1989)

Patricia Smith (b. 1955)

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (b. 1971)

Alice Walker (b. 1944)

Crystal Williams (b. 1970)

Ronaldo Wilson (b. 1970)

Kevin Young (b. 1970)