Poems to celebrate Black History Month

Today’s post is brought to you by educator extraordinaire and guest author, Cait Hutsell. Cait is a high school ELA teacher in North Central Florida. She has almost exclusively taught freshmen for seven years, but has also taught AP Lang, Yearbook, and sophomore English as well. Her superpower is reading ridiculously fast; she finished 164 books in 2018! Cait is currently vacillating between Masters programs and is a mom of one four year old, with another coming soon. Cait is involved in and supports #TeachLivingPoets, #DisruptTexts, #educolor, #ProjectLitChat, and #ClearTheAir. You can follow her on Twitter at @caitteach and see her original tweet thread with these poems; you can also check out her blog at teachlikeasquirrel.com.


Southern Gothic by Rickey Laurentiis (poem link)


Source: Poetry (November 2012)

where you are planted by Evie Shockley (link)


evie 2

Evie Shockley, “where you are planted” from the new black. Wesleyan University Press. 2001.


Sonnet by James Weldon Johnson (link)


“Sonnet” from James Weldon Johnson: Complete Poems, edited by Sondra Kathryn Wilson, Literary Executor of the Estate of James Weldon Johnson. Penguin Group USA, 2000.

Nina’s Blues by Cornelius Eady (link


Cornelius Eady, “Nina’s Blues,” from Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems, published by Putnam. Copyright 2008

For Trayvon Martin by Reuben Jackson (link)


Copyright © 2015 by Reuben Jackson, on Academy of American Poets (Poets.org)

Coal by Audre Lorde (link)


Audre Lorde, “Coal” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997. Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., http://www.nortonpoets.com.

BLK History Month by Nikki Giovanni (link)


Nikki Giovanni, “BLK History Month” from Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea.  Copyright © 2002 HarperCollins Publishers Inc..

History Lesson by Natasha Trethewey @NTrethewey (link


atasha Trethewey, “History Lesson” from Domestic Work. Copyright © 2000, Graywolf Press

Eddie Priest’s Barbershop and Notary by Kevin Young @Deardarkness (link

kevin young

Young, Kevin. “Eddie Priest’s Barbershop & Notary.” Most Way Home, Zoland Books, an imprint of Steerforth Press. Copyright © 1995

truth by Gwendolyn Brooks (link

gwen brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks, “truth” from Blacks. Third World Press, 1987

For the Boys at the Bottom of the Sea by Clint Smith


Clint Smith

Clint Smith, from Counting Descent, Write Bloody Publishing, 2016.

Beloved by Elizabeth Acevedo @AcevedoWrites


Elizabeth Acevedo, from Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths, YesYes Books, 2016.

dream where every black person is standing by the ocean by Danez Smith @Danez_Smif 


Danez Smith, from Don’t Call Us Dead, Graywolf Press, 2017.


I saw Emmett Till this week at a grocery store by Eve L. Ewing



Black Laws by Roger Reeves (link


Virginia is for Lovers by Nicole Sealey (link


Nicole Sealey, from Ordinary Beast, Harper Collins, 2017. Published in The American Poetry Review Volume 43, No 5.

Self Portrait with a Yellow Dress by Safia Elhillo


Safia Elhillo, from The January Children, University of Nebraska Press, 2017.

LAWS WITHOUT MORALS ARE USELESS by Cortney Lamar Charleston (link)  

courtney lamar charleston

Cortney Lamar Charleston, in Drunk in a Midnight Choir Journal (Nov 2018)  – Issue #4

To the woman I saw today who wept in her car by Bianca Lynne Spriggs (link) @biancalynne


Bianca Lynne Spriggs, on the Split This Rock Poetry Database, added on Oct 2, 2018

Camille Dungy Frequently Asked Questions #7 (link


Camille T Dungy. On the Split This Rock Poetry Database, added: Friday, January 12, 2018  /  From “Trophic Cascade” (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

Jacqueline Woodson February 12, 1963 (from BROWN GIRL DREAMING) (link


Jacqueline Woodson, “February 12, 1963” from Brown Girl Dreaming. Penguin, 2014.

Hanif Abdurraqib’s “If Life Is As Short As Our Ancestors Insist It Is, Why Isn’t Everything I Want Already At My Feet” (link)



Hanif Abdurraqib, in Narrative Northeast.

Thank you Cait for curating all of these amazing poems to honor Black History Month! What a phenomenal collection of poems. Cait and I would argue that these poems really should be taught ALL YEAR as they are all literary works of merit worthy of reading and studying in any English classroom. February offers educators an extra opportunity to honor black history and black writers, and to take a close look at our curriculum to make sure black voices are not only present in February, but celebrated throughout the year. 

Thank you for reading! Please comment with more of your favorite poems to add to the list! 

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