Early movements within black poetry had roots and examples in the black literary tradition, as well as roots from outside the black literary tradition. So what is black poetry? Donald B. Gibson, editor of Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays (1973), suggests that "there are no terms or categories which will specifically distinguish the writing of black poets from that of others."
Black poetry refers to poems written by African Americans in the United States of America. It is a sub-section of African American literature filled with cadence, intentional repetition and alliteration. African American poetry predates the written word and is linked to a rich oral tradition. Black poetry draws its inspiration from musical traditions such as gospel, blues, jazz and rap. Black poems are inextricably linked to the experience of African Americans through their history in America, from slavery to segregation and the equal rights movement.
African American poets as early as the American Revolution wrote verse reflective of the time in which they lived. The earliest known black American poets: Jupiter Hammon (1711-1800), Lucy Terry (1730-1821) and Phillis Wheatley (1753_5-1784) constructed their poems on contemporary models. Lucy Terry wrote a brief narrative poem describing an Indian raid, a poem important not so much for its esthetics as for its historical importance. The poem, "Bar Fight," was written in 1746 or thereabouts and not published until 1855, is the first poem known to have been written by a black poet.