In two months, America will be celebrating National Poetry Month for the 20th time. Whereas the African-American literary presence within the larger national literary scene is concerned, much has changed since 1996.
In the first 78 years of the recognition, from 1918 through 1996, African-Americanpoets were awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times. In the twenty years since, three African-American poets have had their books recognized with Pulitzers. Prior to 1999, no African-American poet had been awarded the National Book Award for poetry, but since then there have been six African-American poets who have won.
Those, though, are institutional and industry measures. The changes within the African-American poetry community and the impact African-American poets have had on American letters might better be measured by the aesthetic breadth and greater inclusivity their work has fostered.