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..with his background, we invited him to do a two parts historical introduction of Afro-American poetry.
In this part one of the introductions to Afro-American poetry, Redmond begins with the earliest of Afro-American poets, Phillis Wheatley and takes us up to the 1920s and Harlem Renaissance. He is professor of English and Poet in Residence and Ethnic Studies at California State University, Sacramento. Eugene Redmond.
Phillis Wheatley, Jupiter Hammon, Briton Hammon, George Moses Horton; they come readily to mind and some people who were only part-time or occasional poets come to my mind.
They include people like Gustavus Vassa, sometimes known as Olaudah Equiano,
an African who gained his freedom and went on to write to what we now know as a slave narrative but he sometimes wrote poetry.
Frederick Douglass sometimes wrote verse and there were others, um, um,
well we don't have to name all those now, but there were others. In terms of the early poets many of them were literary, the result of literary experiments.
Servant slaves in the north, for example, Phillis Wheatley, Jupiter Hammon, Briton Hammon and others who were allowed in their spare time or even encouraged to learn to read and write.
Phillis Wheatley for example had mastered Greek, Latin, and English.
It goes without saying by the time she was in her mid-teens.
And she took as her models the English poets of the previous century. She herself writing at the time of the 1770s, having been brought to the United States around the age of 8 from, we think, Senegal.