Timeline: History, Witness, and the Struggle for Freedom in African American Poetry
Gwendolyn Brooks is the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in any category; she is recognized for her book of poetry, Annie Allen.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” and thus unconstitutional.
Emmett Till is found murdered in Money, Mississippi. Rosa Parks, enraged by the incident, refuses to yield her seat to a white man in Montgomery, AL. Her arrest sparks the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Arkansas National Guard protects nine Black youths as they integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. Led by NAACP member Daisy Bates, they become known as the Little Rock Nine.
The “sit-in” movement begins when four Black students from North Carolina A&T sit at Woolworth’s lunch counter and refuse to leave when denied service.
Shortly after the March on Washington, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed by white supremacists in the Ku Klux Klan. Four young girls are killed and the Civil Rights Act gains traction in Congress in response.
Civil rights legislation champion President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in downtown Dallas, Texas.
“The Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by Gwendolyn Brooks
Malcolm X is assassinated on February 21, 1965, at a rally for the Organization of Afro-American Unity; his work and his death inspires many artists in the Black Arts Movement.
Dudley Randall founds Broadside Press, which published many African American poets of the time. In 2015, Broadside Press merged with Naomi Long Madgett’s Lotus Press, founded in 1972, to form Broadside Lotus Press.
The first U.S. troops arrive in Danang on March 8, 1965, marking the day the U.S. entered the Vietnam War. In 1968, 10.5% of the total military strength was African American soldiers.
Michael S. Harper
“The Bronx is Where Dreams are Made” by E. Ethelbert Miller
The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones by Amiri Baraka
“BlackMagic” by Amiri Baraka
“Barbequed Cong or We Laid My Lai Low“ by Eugene Redmond
“The Great Pax Whitie” by Nikki Giovanni
Martin Luther King Jr is assassinated on April 4th.
“Reflections on April 4, 1968” by Nikki Giovanni
“Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks
“In the Spirit of Martin” by Nikki Giovanni
“In Memoriam: Martin Luther King Jr” by June Jordan
The Stonewall Riots in New York City act as a catalyst for LGBT+ social and political activism.
“Domestic” by Carl Phillips
“Poem for My Love“ by June Jordan
“Recreation“ by Audre lorde
Richard Nixon pulls remaining troops out of Vietnam, marking the end of US participation.
Affirmative Action is legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, by stating that “race could be used as one criteria in the admissions decisions of institutions of higher education.”
“Affirmative Action Blues” by Elizabeth Alexander
Alice Walker coins the term “womanist” in her book In Search of our Mothers Gardens.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coins the term “intersectionality” as the awareness of interlocking systems of oppression (race, gender, sexual orientation, ability etc.) that further marginalize persons when combined.
“I Am a Black Woman” by Mari Evans
“For Black Women Who Are Afraid” by Toi Derricotte
“The Second Sermon on the Warpland” by Gwendolyn Brooks
“For Sweet Honey in the Rock” by Sonia Sanchez
“Nikki Rosa” by Nikki Giovanni
The Dark Room Collective, an influential African American poetry collective that featured prominent figures in Black literature, is founded in Boston.
“View of the Library of Congress from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School” by Thomas Sayers Ellis
“Some Kind of Crazy” by Major Jackson
“Why I Love My Father” by John Keene
“Offering” by Sharan Strange
“His Hands” by Natasha Trethewey
“Cousins” by Kevin Young