The African American Experience: Poetry for Adults

The African American Experience blog photo

Explore the creative voices of African American writers in verse. From the 1919 Chicago Race Riots to the rural and Appalachian south to a sci-fi look at the future, the following collections of poems explore the diverse experiences of African Americans.


The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop

The first anthology of poems by and for the hip-hop generation. It includes more than four decades of poets and covers the birth to the now of hip-hop culture and music and style. The BreakBeat Poets is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who’ve never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.


The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic

Black Girl Magic continues and deepens the work of the first BreakBeat Poets anthology by focusing on some of the most exciting Black women writing today. This anthology breaks up the myth of hip-hop as a boys’ club, and asserts the truth that the cypher is a feminine form.


There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker stands at the intersections of vulnerability and performance, of desire and disgust,of tragedy and excellence. Unrelentingly feminist,tender, ruthless, and sequined, these poems are an altarto the complexities of black American womanhood inan age of non-indictments and deja vu, and a time ofwars over bodies and power.


Citizen: an American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Award-winning collection of essays, poetry, and images that expose the racial tensions in twenty-first century life, highlighting the slights, slips of the tongue, and intentional offensives that pervade the home, school, and popular media.


Wild Beauty by Ntozake Shange

In a collection of more than 60 original and selected poems in both English and Spanish, a poet, novelist and award-winning playwright, drawing from her experience as a feminist black woman in America, shares her utterly unique, unapologetic and deeply emotional writing that has made her one of the most iconic literary figures of our time.


1919 by Eve Ewing

The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the “Red Summer” of violence across the nation’s cities, is an event that has shaped the last century but is widely unknown. In 1919, award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing explores the story of this event―which lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost 500 injuries―through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present.


Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith

A National Book Award finalist and the author of six critically acclaimed volumes of poetry presents a compelling new collection that envisions, re-envisions and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas and sonnets.

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Borrowing Digital Titles 101

Although JMRL is currently offering curbside pickup for physical items (see more details in this blog post), now is still a great time to consider borrowing a downloadable ebook or audiobook. Take advantage of JMRL’s digital collections and explore thousands of titles all from the comfort of your own home. Don’t know where to start? No problem! The following is an overview of JMRL’s digital collections and links for getting started. 

JMRL’s eLibrary consists of several digital collections that are available anywhere, anytime with a JMRL library card. The three most popular collections are Overdrive/Libby, RBdigital, and Freading.


overdrivelibbyiconOverdrive contains both ebooks and audiobooks that are compatible with many different devices. Libby is the updated and user-friendly version of the Overdrive app that can be downloaded to your phone or tablet from your device’s app store. Whether you are browsing for titles from the Libby app or, you will sign in using your library card number. Note that Overdrive/Libby recently introduced an “Instant Digital Card” feature, but we encourage you to use your existing JMRL card number to sign in and borrow titles.

For step-by-step instructions on getting started, visit Overdrive’s Getting Started page. You will also find detailed instructions for specific devices, including Androids, Kindles, Kobos, Macs, and Windows devices. Detailed instructions on borrowing, downloading, returning, and other actions in the Libby app are available here.


logo_RBdigital_verticalLike Overdrive/Libby, RBdigital contains downloadable books and audiobooks, but also houses magazines and comic books. There is an app version of RBdigital that is compatible with different devices so you can listen or read on your phone or tablet. Unlike Overdrive/Libby that only requires a JMRL card to sign-in, new RBdigital users will need to register and create an account with a username and password. Although the app is not quite as user-friendly as Libby, RBdigital is used less frequently so there may be shorter waiting periods for titles.

For help on getting started or troubleshooting, visit RBdigital’s Help page for step-by-step instructions and video tutorials. 


dl-freadingLast but not least, Freading contains a selection of ebooks that, unlike Overdrive/Libby or RBdigtial, are available at all times with no wait lists and can be accessed through the Freading app or on a computer. Like RBdigital, new Freading users will need to register to create an account. Freading is also unique in that their ebooks are wrapped in Adobe software so users will need to take the additional step of downloading Adobe Digital Editions on their device and creating an Adobe ID. For more information on using Freading, visit their FAQ page.

While JMRL branches are currently closed to the public, Reference staff are working remotely and are available to answer any questions you may have about borrowing digital titles. Visit the eLibrary page on the JMRL website and look under the Need Assistance? section for ways to reach out to staff via chat, email, or text. 

Happy Reading!

The African American Experience: Poetry for Children

The African American Experience blog photo

Introduce young readers to civil rights leaders, artists, performers, and other notable African American historical figures through verse.


Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike.


Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange

Celebrated poet and playwright Ntozake Shange captures the spirit of civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King–illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson. Walking many miles to school in the dusty road, young Coretta Scott knew the unfairness of life in the segregated south. A yearning for equality began to grow. Together with Martin Luther King, Jr., she gave birth to a vision of change through nonviolent protest. It was the beginning of a journey–with dreams of freedom for all.


Martin Rising : Requiem for a King by Pinkney, Andrea Davis

An illustrated tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. celebrates his commitment to non-violent protest in support of civil rights.


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford

Presents a collage-illustrated treasury of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer.


The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

The Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree


Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill

When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. Includes bios of several of the fifty-seven musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph.

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