Celebrating Black Poetry Day: 8 Black Poets who attended HBCUs

By Melanie Wolff

Black Poetry Day is October 17th. The holiday is celebrated on the birthday of the first published African American poet, Jupiter Hammon, who was born into slavery on Long Island in 1711. To commemorate this special event, today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up highlights famous poets who attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as Predominantly Black Institutions.

1. Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giowanni - MSI Lineup

Giovanni attended undergraduate school at her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University. She graduated with honors from their History department.

2. Langston Hughes

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Hughes began his education at Columbia University, but left because of the racial prejudice that pervaded the school in the 1920s. He returned to college soon after, enrolling at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

3. Gwendolyn Brooks

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Brooks was the first black person to receive a Pulitzer Prize. She attended Kennedy-King College, a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) affiliated with the City College of Chicago and graduated in 1936.

4. James Emanuel

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Emanuel, a poet credited for creating the literary genre “jazz-and-blues haiku,” attended Howard University. He graduated in 1950.

5. Alice Walker

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Walker, writer and poet best known for her book The Color Purple, began her college career at Spelman College.

6. Gilbert “Gil” Scott-Heron

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Famous as a soul/jazz poet and activist, Scott-Heron attended Lincoln University. He chose the school because of its profound influence on one of his role models, Langston Hughes.

7. Lucille Clifton

clifton msi lineup

A two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979-1985, Clifton attended Howard University for most of her undergraduate career.

8. Saul Stacey Williams


Williams, known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip-hop, graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. in Drama and Philosophy.

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