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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

African American Literature: African American Poetry

Scope of Coverage

The African American Poetry database features nearly 3,000 poems by African American poets of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The selection ranges from what is believed to be the first African American poem in Lucy Prince's "Bars Fight" (1746) to the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), the first popularly successful African American poet.


The database uses the first published editions of the poems (from books or periodicals) when at all possible. If a poem appears in original dialect and was standardized in a subsequent edition, both versions are included.


Only the poetical texts are included in database, though some poems which originally contained the poet's own notes are included.

How to Search the African American Poetry Database



The opening search page for the African American Poetry database provides three basic search options: keyword, title (or first line), and poet (author). It also includes the feature "select from a list" which allows you to browse through these three catagories.

It also permits limiting searches by lifespan, gender, literary period (which also allows for browsing using the "select from a list" link to the right), and keyword search options in the section "Additional Poet Details."


After typing in your search terms and clicking on the Search button, you will see a list of results:

These results will include the poet (author)--as well as a link to their author page--the title of the poem below it, and a URL link for the poem. Clicking on the link sends you to the complete poem.