Poetry

8 Poems by Frances Watkins Harper, 19th-Century Author and Reformer

Frances Watkins Harper (1825 – 1911, also known as Frances E.W. Harper or Frances Ellen Watkins Harper) was an ardent suffragist, social reformer, and abolitionist in addition to her renown as a poet and author.

She wrote prolifically from the time she published her first collection of poetry in 1845, at the age of twenty. A freeborn African-American from Baltimore, Maryland, she dedicated her life to social causes, including abolition, women’s suffrage, and the quest for equality.

The dynamic Frances Harper became involved in anti-slavery societies in the early 1850s and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Read More→


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10 Poems by Phillis Wheatley from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

When Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley was published in 1773, it marked several significant accomplishments. It was the first book by a slave to be published in the Colonies, and only the third book by a woman in the American colonies to be published.

Phillis (not her original name) was brought to the North America in 1761 as part of the slave trade. She was bought from the slave market by John Wheatley of Boston, who gave her as a personal servant to his wife, Susanna. She was given the surname of the family, as was customary at the time. Read More→


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The Poetry of Anne Bradstreet: An Analysis

This concise analysis of the poetry of Anne Bradstreet is excerpted from Who Lived Here? A Baker’s Dozen of Historic New England Houses and Their Occupants by Marc Antony DeWolfe Howe, an eminent editor and writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672) was the first writer in the American colonies to be published.

She rejected the prevailing notions of women’s inferiority. That opened her to criticism, not for her work itself, but that she dared to write and make her work public. It was considered unacceptable for women of her time to have a voice. She not only used hers effectively but pushed back at her critics. Read More→


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A Selection of Poems by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935; also known as Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson) was a multitalented writer, poet, journalist, and teacher. She used her writings to advocate for the rights of women and African-Americans and was considered one of the premier poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

In addition to her highly regarded poetry, Alice was known for her short stories and searingly honest essays, in which she expressed the challenges of growing up mixed-race in Louisiana. Her heritage blended African-American, Creole, European, and Native American roots, which gave her a broad perspective on race. She explored theses in tandem with the varied and complex issues faced by women of color. Read More→


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Poems by Gwendolyn B. Bennett, Harlem Renaissance Poet

Gwendolyn B. Bennett (1902 – 1981) was a multitalented American poet, artist, columnist, educator, and arts administrator associated with the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s. Equally dedicated to visual and literary arts, her first published poem, “Heritage,” was published in the NAACP’s journal, The Crisis, in 1923.

Her most productive period as a poet was from 1926 and 1927, producing poems that explored themes of racial pride and reflected African motifs. “Fantasy” spoke to the aspirations of African-American women. “Dark Girl” encouraged black women to love themselves and aspire to the nobility of African queens.  Read More→


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