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The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry

Edited by Arnold Rampersad
Associate Editor: Hilary Herbold

Publication Date - October 2005

ISBN: 9780195125634

464 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

An anthology of poems by visionary black poets, who paint a memorable portrait of the African-American experience


For over two centuries, black poets have created verse that captures the sorrows, joys, and triumphs of the African-American experience. Reflecting their variety of visions and styles, The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry aims to offer nothing less than a definitive literary portrait of a people.
Here are poems by writers as different as Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B. Du Bois; Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes; Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka; Rita Dove and Harryette Mullen; Yusef Komunyakaa and Nathaniel Mackey. Acclaimed as a biographer and editor, Arnold Rampersad groups these poems as meditations on key issues in black culture, including the idea of Africa; the South; slavery; protest and resistance; the black man, woman, and child; sexuality and love; music and religion; spirituality; death and transcendence.
With their often starkly contrasting visions and styles, these poets illuminate some of the more controversial and intimate aspects of the black American experience. Poetry here is not only or mainly a vehicle of protest but also an exploration of the complex and tender subtleties of black culture. One section offers tributes to celebrated leaders such as Sojourner Truth and Malcolm X, but many more reflect the heroism compelled by everyday black life. The variety of poetic forms and language captures the brilliant essence of English as mastered by black Americans dedicated to the art of poetry.
Loving and yet also honest and unsparing, The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry is for readers who treasure both poetry and the genius of black America.


  • A definitive literary portrait of a people

About the Author(s)

Arnold Rampersad is Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and Associate Dean for the Humanities at Stanford University. His many books include the two-volume Life of Langston Hughes; Days of Grace: A Memoir (co-authored with Arthur Ashe); and the definitive Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.

Associate Editor, Hilary Herbold, a graduate of the University of California at Irvine, also earned a doctorate in English and American Literature in 1997 from Princeton University. After teaching for several years in the Department of English, Dr. Herbold is now Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students at Princeton.


"Includes all the wonderful names you'd expect: Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Langston Hughes, Stanley Crouch, and many, many more."--Library Journal

"This definitive volume captures, in verse, the history of African American life and culture. A landmark publication for African American literature and a major contribution to American poetry as a whole." --Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"An invaluable addition to any library, because it so amply demonstrates the richness and depth of three centuries of America's most talented black writers."--ForeWord Magazine

"This anthology of the poetry of a race, imaginatively arranged by themes, announces itself as a comprehensive and necessary gathering--necessary not only to the culture but to every conscientious reader's library." --Billy Collins

"The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry gives us a poetry that has reached full maturity. Here is an immensely readable, sometimes scalding, aesthetically diverse x-ray of American life. 'Camerado! This is no book,' as Whitman said: Who touches this touches a man, a woman, a people."--Edward Hirsch

"This is the volume awaited by scholars, teachers, poets and poet-in-training as well as everyday lovers of words set to the music of poetic pulses and colors. Organized without the constraints of setting the historical record straight (for once that job is left to others) but only with the sheer joy of presenting the very best poems in the black American tradition, this lovely book is a godsend. Its mapping of these poems, by theme, serves the pleasure-reader as well as the classroom lesson-planner, teaching a tradition. Familiar poems look new in these new settings; poems we never saw before shimmer on these pages. Kudos to Professor Rampersad, this book's editor whose eloquent and comprehensive introduction opens the bright and shining door to the best single collection of black poetry I have ever seen." --Robert G. O'Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

"Wisely foregoing any predictable attempt at comprehensiveness and jettisoning the convenience of chronology, Arnold Rampersad has structured these selections as interlocking voices in a series of multi-generational conversations that provoke and instruct through fruitful juxtaposition. The end result is a strikingly compelling work of creative scholarship that effectively conveys the extraordinary richness and complexity of the African American poetic tradition." --Richard Yarborough, University of California, Los Angeles, Editor of the University Press of New England's Library of Black Literature series

"Judicious in its selections and creative in its organization, this anthology of African American poetry is definitive yet readily accessible. This volume belongs on the shelves of any reader who considers American poetry and African American literature an important part of our artistic and cultural history. A rare treasure." --Marcellus Blount, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University