The Power of Poetry

The Power of Poetry: Mother's Day Edition

Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images

Through literature, writers and activists throughout history have paid homage to mothers of African descent. In recognition of Mother’s Day, the museum features a few selected poems by prominent figures in African American history and culture.

Two of these figures, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Langston Hughes, are well-remembered as major poets of their era. Margaret Burroughs, who was also a poet, is best known as a visual artist, educator, and institution builder. The pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, who was the leader of the largest organization of African peoples, also possessed the impulse to articulate his thoughts and sentiments through poetry. His poem presented in this segment appears in The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey, edited by Tony Martin.

My mother, a maid for nearly forty years, never identified herself with the scarcely glimpsed black face beneath the ruffled cap. Like everyone else, in her daydreams at least, she thought she was free.

Alice Walker In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, 1983

Enjoy listening to and reading these impressive tributes to dynamic women of African descent.

“The Slave Mother” by abolitionist and orator Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

“The Negro Mother” by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes

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“The Black Mother” by pan-African leader and organizer Marcus Garvey.

“Homage to Black Madonnas” by artist and educator Margaret Burroughs, founder of the DuSable Museum in Chicago.

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