African American Poetry contains nearly 3,000 poems by African American poets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It provides a comprehensive survey of the early history of African American poetry, from the first recorded poem by an African American (Lucy Terry Prince's 'Bars Fight', c.1746) to the major poets of the nineteenth century, including Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. The authors and works included in the collection show the huge variety of this relatively unexplored area of American literary history. Coverage includes writers from both North and South, from rural and urban backgrounds, and ranges from university-educated professionals to those for whom the very acts of reading and writing constituted a defiance of Southern slave laws.

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