In 1773, Phyllis Wheatley became the first African American and the third woman in the United States to publish a book of poems. A second manuscript was written, but it was never published or found. Since then, black poets have spoken loud and clear about the anguish and optimism of the black experience. Four of these sisters who broke new ground are Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Maya Angelou.

Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni, Jr. was born on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Giovanni attended Fisk University and in 1967 he obtained a BA in history. She later became a professor of writing and literature at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and at State University. He has written two dozen books, mostly his poetry during the 1960s. These works include “Black Feeling, Black Talk” (1968), “Black Judgment” (1968) and “Re: Creation” (1970). His three most recent works are “Love Poems”, “Blues: For All the Changes” and “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea; Poems and Not Quite Poems” and “Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People”. In 1988 he published a collection of essays, “Sacred Cows … and Other Edibles.”

It has been written that, “His collection of poetry, ‘Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgment’, captures the militant attitude of the civil rights and Black Art movements of that time.”

Wilsonia Sonia Benita Sánchez is a poet, playwright and educator born on September 9, 1934 in Birmingham, Alabama. Like Ms. Giovanni, she earned a bachelor’s degree. Sánchez received his in political science from Hunter College in 1955. He has won numerous literary honors, including the Lucretia Mott Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and an honorary doctorate from Wilberforce University (1972).

In 1972 Sánchez joined the Nation of Islam. However, she left in 1975 because some of her views conflicted with the Nation of Islam’s position on women’s roles. Sánchez has always been known for the fact that her political activism is also evident in her plays and poetry. Her work includes “Homegirls & Hand Grenades” (1985), for which she received the American Book Award. His most notable works include “The Bronx Is Next” (1970), “Sister Sonji” (1972), “Malcolm Man / Don’t Live Here No More” (1979) and “I’m Black When I’m Singing, I am blue when I am not “(1982).

In 1965 he joined the faculty of San Francisco State University. He also taught at Rutgers University, the University of Pittsburgh, Manhattan Community College of CUNY; The City College of CUNY, Amherst College and the University of Pennsylvania. Ten years later, he was on the faculty of Temple University.

Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas. However, the Brooks family soon moved to Chicago. According to researcher Kenny Jackson, when she was young, Brooks was fortunate to meet “James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, who urged her to read modern poetry, especially the work of Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, and ee cummings, and who emphasized the you need to write as much and as often as possible. “

Subsequently, much of his work appeared in the Chicago Defender. In 1945 his first book of poetry was published, “A Street In Bronzeville”. That same year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Although it was very well received by critics, like his second book from 1949, “Annie Allen”. Five years later, Ms. Brooks hit pay land. That year she became the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Over the years, she was invited to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival (1962), appointed a poetry consultant for that same body (1985), and in 1994 she was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities as the Lecturer Jefferson 1994, the highest award in the humanities awarded by the federal government.

According to Jackson, “a turning point in her career came in 1967 when she attended the Second Black Writers Conference at Fisk University and decided to become more involved in the Black Arts movement. She became one of the most visible articulators of the ‘black aesthetic’ “. . His ‘awakening’ led to a change from a major publisher to a smaller black one. While some critics found a more angry tone in his work, elements of protest had always been present in his writings and his awareness of social problems did not result in tirades at the expense of his clear commitment to aesthetic principles. “

Some of his works include, “Boys and Girls of Bronzeville” (1956), “In Mecca” (1968).

“The Bean Eaters” (1960), “Selected Poems” (1963) and “Report from Part One: An Autobiography” (1972). His latest work is a book of poetry entitled “In Montgomery”. Many of his poems are powerful pieces dealing with the abject nature of inner-city life and racial inequality. It has been written that the impetus for much of his work came from “looking out the window of his second-floor apartment building in Chicago.” Perhaps Brooks is best known for the concise and poignant “We Real Cool”:

We are really cool. U.S

I left school. U.S

Stalk until late. U.S

Hit directly. U.S

Sing sin. U.S

Fine gin. U.S

Jazz June. U.S

Die soon.

Brooks said of the billiard players in his classic work: “They have no pretense of glamor. They have supposedly dropped out of school, or are at least in the billiard room when they possibly should be in school. You’re supposed to stop after school. ‘We’ and think about its validity … I want to represent your basic uncertainty, which you don’t bother to question every day. “

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. During her twenties, Maya studied dance in New York City and also sang in nightclubs on both coasts. She has lived all over the world, including serving as an editor for The Arab Observer, a Cairo newspaper. He also taught music and theater in Ghana and studied filmmaking in Sweden. Later, Marguerite married Tosh Angelos, a Greek-American sailor. Theirs was a short-lived marriage and they divorced.

Angelou is a poet, actor, director, producer and author of theater, film and television. She is the author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969), which focused on growing up in the racist South and her rape by her mother’s boyfriend, and her poetry volume “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water” Fore I Die “(1971). She earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the score she wrote for the film” Georgia. “In 1977, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Nyo Boto in the television miniseries” Roots. “

She has served under Presidents Ford and Carter, as a member of the Bicentennial Commission and a member of the Commission for International Women of the Year. In 1993, he was asked to read an original poem for the inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton, a piece titled On the Pulse of Morning “.

According to Wikipedia, “Comedian David Alan Grier mocked Angelou while hosting the Saturday Night Live sitcom. The joke was that Angelou (played by Grier) had been hired as the new spokesperson for Pennzoil Motor Oils. In character , Grier read a poem dramatically, using Afrocentrism as an analogy for motor oil. There was a similar joke during the same episode with Grier-as-Angelou selling Froot Loops breakfast cereal. Angelou is said to have requested a copy of the sketch at video because he really enjoyed it. “

Angelou once wrote:

… Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so hard

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When i try to show them

They say they can’t see yet.

I say,

It’s the arch of my back

The sun of my smile

The ride of my breasts

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman

That’s me …

Sources:

Nikki Giovanni Wikipedia Biography

“Women of color Women of their word, Afro-American playwrights – Sonia Sánchez”. Unknown author and publication.

“An Interview with Brooks: On ‘We Real Cool'”, by George Stavros

“The Life and Career of Gwendolyn Brooks” by Kenny Jackson Williams

“Maya Angelou, biography”

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