Charles Explorer logo

African American Poetry: 1945-Present

Class at Faculty of Arts |


African American Poetry: 1945—Present

Summer Semester 2023 Course Outline 

Course Lecturer: Stephan Delbos, MFA, PhD 

This course focuses on African American poetry since World War II. Key considerations include: the poetry of historical witness; the role of poetry in race relations and racial representation; the intersections of poetry and hip-hop; and the ways poetry expresses theoretical positions and personal identities with dramatic and physical immediacy. With a preference for experimental, avant-garde, and formally innovative poetry, this course balances close readings of poems with critical and theoretical essays, and audio recordings, paying particular attention to the intersections of literature, history, sociology and race. Upon completion of the course, students will have a more comprehensive understanding of African American poetry from the second half of the twentieth-century and today, specifically regarding the frequent overlaps and cross-currents of poetry, hip-hop and contemporary culture.


Attendance and class participation 

Weekly short responses to readings 

Class presentation 

Final essay 

Optional 2nd essay for a ZK    

Attendance: You are required to attend all class meetings on time. 

Class presentation: Each student is required to deliver a five-minute presentation on a specific topic, poem, or poet. 

Final essay: Students will write a final essay of 2,000 words on one of the poets or topics we’ve covered in class. The subject will be discussed with the teacher in advance. Primary and secondary sources are required. The essay must be typed in Times New Roman 12—point font and double—spaced. Title the essay, number the pages, and staple them together in the top left corner. Late papers will not be accepted without a legitimate excuse. In addition, students wanting to produce a second graded essay for a ZK may do so: required length: 2,000—3,000 words; subjects to be discussed with the teacher—scholar."   

School Policies 

Course lecturers will fail any piece of work that they feel shows clear signs of having been plagiarized.   

Contact details

Course Schedule

Week 1: Langston Hughes and the Remnants of the Harlem Renaissance

Week 2: LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement

Week 3: Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde and Black Feminism

Week 4: Stephen Jonas, Ted Joans, Bob Kaufman and the Black Beats

Week 5: Gil-Scott Heron and the Intersection of Poetry and Hip-Hop

Week 6: Ai and the Contemporary Persona Poem

Week 7: Wu Tang Clan, MF Doom and 1990s Black Poetry on the Mic

Week 8: Terrance Hayes and Twenty-first Century Formalism

Week 9: Claudia Rankine and the Poetry of Black Lives Matter

Week 10: Kendrick Lamar and Poetry as Testament

Week 11: Fred Moten, Nathaniel Mackey and the African American Avant-garde

Week 12: Jericho Brown, Danez Smith and Contemporary Black Queerness