Cover image for I, too, sing America : three centuries of African-American poetry
I, too, sing America : three centuries of African-American poetry
Clinton, Catherine, 1952-
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
Physical Description:
128 pages : color illustrations ; 30 cm
A collection of poems by African-American writers, including Lucy Terry, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Alice Walker.
Reading Level:
NP Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.3 6 Quiz: 29596 Guided reading level: Y.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS591.N4 I35 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area-Black History
PS591.N4 I35 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS591.N4 I35 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS591.N4 I35 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS591.N4 I35 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From the first known African American poet, Lucy Terry, to recent poet laureate Rita Dove, I, TOO, SING AMERICA captures the enormous talent and passion of black writers. This powerful and diverse, this unique collection spans three centuries of poetry in America as poets bare their souls, speak their minds, trace their roots, and proclaim their dreams in the thirty-six poems compiled here. The voices of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, W. E. B. Dubois, and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others, create an energetic blend of tone and tempo, ardor and awe. From lamentations to celebrations, these poems reveal the ironies of black America, juxtaposing themes of resistance and reconciliation, hope and despair. Each poem is further illuminated with notes, a brief biography of the poet, and stunning visual interpretations. Clinton and Alcorn have created a stirring tribute to these great poets, as well as a remarkable volume that will move any reader.

Author Notes

Stephen Alcorn is an acclaimed painter and printmaker who has created artwork for a number of anthologies and picture books, including Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney, and I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry by Catherine Clinton. He lives in Cambridge, New York. Visit Stephen Alcorn at
Catherine Clinton earned her undergraduate degree in Afro-American studies from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in history from Princeton. She is the author of many historical works for children and adults, and has taught African American Studies at Brandeis University, Brown University, Harvard University, and Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland . Dr. Clinton lives in San Antonio, Texas, where she's Denman Professor of American History at the University of Texas San Antonio.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-10. The title of this anthology is from a stirring poem by Langston Hughes, the same poem that gave Arnold Adoff the title for his landmark anthology, I Am the Darker Brother (1968; rev. ed., 1997). Adoff brought the best modern African American poets to young readers in a small, accessible paperback. This handsome, large-size, illustrated collection goes back to the first black poets in the early eighteenth century--the African-born, enslaved women Lucy Terry and Phyllis Wheatley--and ends with contemporary poets, such as Amiri Baraka and Rita Dove. With just 36 poems by 25 poets, it does not attempt to be comprehensive, but rather to show the best of the African American poetic tradition. For each poet, Clinton provides a biography and a brief, insightful commentary on the poem(s) she has chosen, including a discussion of political as well as literary connections. Alcorn's dramatic, full-page, full-color illustrations opposite each poem evoke the quiltlike patterns and rhythmic figures of folk art. The spacious design, on high-quality paper, will draw browsers to read one great poem at a time, and the historical sweep and commentary make this a fine volume to use across the curriculum. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this well-chosen collection, Clinton, an author and editor of women's history books for adults, chronologically presents work by 25 poets, from Lucy Terry and Phillis Wheatley to Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen to Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. Because only six of the poets are represented by more than one poem, however, readers are unlikely to get a strong sense of any one poet, despite the biographical entry on each. Alcorn's (Langston Hughes: An Illustrated Edition) abstract mixed-media illustrations on grainy, almost linenlike paper recalls Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas and, at times, the kaleidoscopic space of Marc Chagall. Each illustration is a complex response to the poem, inviting readers to both study the artwork and muse over the text. Facing each biographical note is a full page of taupe-and-white pattern, however, which quickly grows monotonous, particularly in comparison with the striking forms and splintered spaces of the full-color art. Rather than relegating the artwork to a supporting role, this book places the paintings on at least the same level as the classic poems. While those who love poetry may wish there were more poems, the strong selections that are included here‘coupled with the dramatic paintings they have inspired‘are likely to put readers on the trail to the poets' further works. All ages. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This book includes 25 poets, from Lucy Terry to Rita Dove, with a total of 36 poems. The poems are performed, not narrated, by Ashley Bryan and Ren‚e Joshua Porter. Prefacing each work are the poets' biographies and information about the poems. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4 Up-The print version of I, Too, Sing America, edited by Catherine Clinton (Houghton, 1998), was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. This unabridged recording of the anthology features 36 poems by 25 African American poets (including two Pulitzer Prize winners and one Poet Laureate of the U.S.), performed in the widely diverse styles of Ashley Bryan and Renee Joshua-Porter. Joshua-Porter's interpretations flow in a smooth, expressive storyteller's style, making it easy to follow the thoughts being set forth. Bryan tends to use great dramatic flair and slow, careful enunciation in his oratory, a style that demands the listener's attention. The most outstanding feature of this collection is that a biographical sketch explaining the historical context of the poem prefaces each poet's work. The first cassette begins with the poem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson, sung with musical accompaniment in the style popularly called the African American anthem. It is followed by "I, Too, Sing America" by Langston Hughes, which segues nicely into an explanation of the role of the African American poet over the past three centuries. From Lucy Terry's 18th century "Bar's Fight," the first published work by an African American poet, to Rita Dove's "Primer" written near the end of the 20th century, the black American struggle for equality and appreciation is a recurring theme. School libraries will find this set especially useful to meet demands for Black History materials.-Joanne K. Hammond, Chambersburg Area Middle School, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.