Chosen by the American Library Association as a Significant Adult Book for Young People
With 200,000 copies in print, this anthology has been seen as a fundamental collection of African American verse for decades. Bontemps (1902-73), an important figure during and after the Harlem Renaissance, author of more than 25 novels, and longtime librarian at Fisk University, last revised this classic anthology just before his death, adding such crucial new voices as Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Bob Kaufman, among others.
This edition, issued in 1996, reprints the poems in Bontemps's revised volume along with updated biographical notes. Nearly seventy poets are represented, their works indexed by both author and title. Including some 200 poems covering all the social, cultural, political, historical, and literary movements that defined the 20th century, this collection is essential for every reader interested in African American literature.
"[A] vital, revealing collection."—San Francisco Chronicle
"There is about [this] collection the aura of a profound an intelligent dignity."—The Baltimore Sun
"An interesting, absorbing anthology."—Library Journal
"[Bontemps's] most distinctive works are ringing affirmations of the human passion for freedom and the desire for social justice inherent in us all. Arnold Rampersad called him the conscience of his era and it could be fairly added that his tendency to fuse history and imagination represents his personal legacy to a collective memory."—Charles L. James, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (on the life and work of Arna Bontemps, editor of American Negro Poetry)