Explore some of the key voices of black writers and poets in this literary text set.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Excerpts from Chapters 1 & 7
While he was enslaved, Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and write.
We Wear the Mask
Paul Laurence Dunbar
This famous poem is about the tendency of oppressed black Americans to conceal their pain and suffering in post-Civil War America.
If We Must Die
A Harlem Renaissance poet discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity.
In this sonnet, McKay, a Harlem Renaissance poet, reveals his mixed feelings about living in "the land of the free."
In this poem, a speaker longingly describes a city scene from which he feels isolated.
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
The famous ex-slave and abolitionist points out the hypocrisy of "the home of the free" on Independence Day.
Heart to Heart
In this poem, Rita Dove reinvents a common symbol - the heart - and in doing so, shows us what it means to be human.
Fifth Grade Autobiography
Inspired by an old photo, a child revisits early memories.
Mother to Son
This Harlem Renaissance poem uses metaphor to depict a mother's struggles in life.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Excerpt from Chapter 11
In chapter 11, Douglass describes his escape from slavery, and the challenges he faced upon becoming a free man.
To His Excellency, General Washington
An ode to the future first president, commending his achievements as general in the American Revolutionary War.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Excerpt from Chapter 1
In this excerpt from his autobiography, Douglass describes the horrifying abuse of Aunt Hester by the slave master.
On Being Brought from Africa to America
A woman describes being brought to America from Africa as a slave and the impact of the experience on her religious beliefs.
The Faith Cure Man
Paul Laurence Dunbar
A poor mother refuses to give up on her ailing daughter, and turns to a spiritual healer when a doctor tells her there is nothing left to do.
Letter from Frederick Douglass to Harriet Tubman
Frederick Douglass writes a letter to Harriet Tubman praising her work in the abolitionist movement.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
The speaker of the poem uses symbolism to explain the connection they feel between their ancestry and identity.
We Real Cool
A group of young men at a pool hall don't care about responsibilities.
Sadie and Maud
Two sisters live very different lives because of the choices they have made.
I Have a Dream
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, King discusses the status of African Americans and what he hopes to see in the future.