Black Poetry Day

Every year, the 17th of October is observed as Black Poetry Day. This day falls on the anniversary of the first published black poet in the U.S. This poet is Jupiter Hammon, and he was born on this day in 1711 in Long Island, New York. This isn’t a holiday to celebrate just one poet, however. It’s a day that celebrates all black poets who came after Jupiter.

These include such remarkable poets as Etheridge Knight, Lucille Clifton, James Weldon Johnson, Rita Dove, and Audre Lorde. Of course, that’s only a small list of the incredible black poets that can be discovered on this holiday.

The History Of Black Poetry Day

We can’t discuss the history of Black Poetry Day without first talking about Jupiter Hammon. After all, he is the reason why this holiday even exists. Mr. Hammon was born into slavery at Lloyd Manor (in what is now known as Lloyd Harbor, New York) and is believed to have been born to slaves named Opium and Rose in 1711. Jupiter would serve under four generations of this family, spending his entire life as a slave to the Lloyds.

Even though he was a slave, the Lloyds allowed Hammon to receive a basic education through the Anglican Church’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Since he was able to read and write, he was able to help the Lloyds in their commercial businesses.

This afforded him the chance to write literature. This literature was symbolically written and heavily laden with metaphors, which gave him a safe way to express his feelings about slavery.

Jupiter’s first published poem was “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries.” This poem was composed on December 25, 1760. In 1761, it would appear as a broadside. The printing and publishing of this poem would make Jupiter Hammon the first published black poet.

Even though we’re unsure of who invented Black Poetry Day or where it was invented, we do know that it was created in 1985. It was conceived as a day to not only honor the first published black poet in the United States but also to honor all black poets that came after him.

Observing Black Poetry Day

Observing this day is as easy as taking the time to learn more about Jupiter Hammon and to read his work, as well as the work of other black poets. It’s a day on which schools can hold special events highlighting this day, and it’s a day when parents can introduce their children to black poetry as well. On social media, people can use the hashtag #BlackPoetryDay to spread the news about this holiday far and wide as well.

When is it?
This year (2024)
October 17 Thursday
Next year (2025)
October 17 Friday
Last year (2023)
October 17 Tuesday
Culture & History, Education & Reading