Many poets contributed to and shaped the Black Arts movement, especially in its early stages throughout the 1960's. Some of the most influencial poets of the Black Arts Movement include Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Dudley Randall.
Amiri Baraka is often credited with giving birth to the Black Arts Movement. Amiri Baraka was born in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Howard University and served in the United States Air force before eventually settling down in New York's Greenwich Village. Baraka was a central figure in the bohemian scene and became known throughout New York from his work in the play Dutchman. The death of Malcom X inspired him to become a Black Nationalist, moving to Harlem and eventually back to Newark. He spent 20 years teaching African studies at SUNY-Stony Brook, before retiring. He is still active and productive as an artist and an intellectual. 1957-1962 was Baraka's beat period. He published little magazines such as Yugen and Floating Bear. He socialized with many other prominent Beat poets such Ginsberg and O'hara. 1965-1974 was the Black Nationalist period. This was the period after the death of Malcom X where Baraka left the Bohemian scene. He stated in "The Legacy of Malcolm X, and the Coming of the Black Nation," that "Black People are a race, a culture, a Nation." He turned his back on the white world and established the Black Arts Repertory Theater School in Harlem. In 1967 he published Black Magic, which tells the story of how he left the black world and fully embraced the African American Culture.
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas and raised in Chicago. Brooks has written over 20 poetry books including Children Coming Home, To Disembark, and To Disembark . She also wrote several novels. In 1968 she was named poet Laureate for the state of Illinois. Brooks also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lived in Chicago until her death on December 3, 2000. She lived in Illinois until her death in 2003.
Dudley Randall was born January 14, 1914 in Washington, DC but moved to Detroit in 1920. His first published poem appeared in The Detroit Free Press when he was only 13. Randall had a brief teaching assignment in 1969. After that he worked as a librarian at the University of Detroit in 1974. He was greatly interested in Russia and visited the country in 1966. This interest in Russia was evident in his poems. In 1963, he wrote"Ballad of Birmingham" in response to a church bombing where four young girls were killed. "Ballad of Birmingham was later turned into a song. In response to this he started Broadside Press in 1965 to protect his rights. After the Detroit Riot in 1967, Randall published Cities Burning (1968), a group of thirteen poems, all but one previously uncollected. Dudley grew to have a reputation as a pioneer in African American book publishing and is remembered for his powerful poetry.