During this year’s Black History Month, highlighting powerful Black Female poets seems relevant.
From Phillis Wheatley to Amanda Gorman
Poems have long been a part of protest and resistance. It’s no different now than it was in 1773 when the first Black, Phillis Wheatley, published her book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
Even as a teenager, Wheatley used her poetry as commentary on issues such as the Stamp Act and the Boston Massacre.
When the Revolutionary War began, her work focused on the ideas of the rebel colonists. In 1775, she sent one of her poems to George Washington. The lines “Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side, / Thy ev’ry action let the goddess guide”, encouraged him to move forward and lead the patriots to victory. (Washington responded by writing a letter that ended with the standard, but perhaps heedless, signoff, “I am, with great Respect, Your obedt humble servant”.)
Two hundred and forty-eight years later, a young Black woman, Amanda Gorman, became our country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. In 2021, Gorman recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at Joe Biden’s inauguration. That poem spoke of hope, legacy, diversity, and unity as the country transitioned from one administration to another.
Gorman’s most recent collection of poems, Call Us What We Carry, which she wrote during the pandemic plays with form to deliver her powerful messages.
Socially engaged, influential Black women. We should take a page from their books.
League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa
This poem is included in Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry.
Back to the Past By Amanda Gorman At times even blessings will bleed us. There are some who lost their lives & those who were lost from ours, Who we might now reënter, All our someones summoned softly. The closest we get to time travel Is our fears softening, Our hurts unclenching, As we become more akin To kin, as we return To who we were Before we actually were Anything or anyone— That is, when we were born unhating & unhindered, howling wetly With everything we could yet become. To travel back in time is to remember When all we knew of ourselves was love.