Essay on Stressing African American Importance Through Poetry

Essay on Stressing African American Importance Through Poetry

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Even as a child, Thelma Lucille Sayles, or Lucille Clifton, realized how notable African Americans were. However, throughout her lifetime, Clifton has encountered discrimination against her race on multiple occasions, but her poetry, for both adults and children, show resilience against any racist remarks made. With a heavy influence from growing up in an African-American household and experiencing the Civil Rights Movement, Lucille Clifton’s writings focus on the importance of African Americans, especially women, in communities (Hine 1-3).
It would be simply inappropriate to explore Clifton’s childhood without first looking at her great-great-grandmother, Caroline Donald, or Mammy Ca’line, a slave brought from Africa to Virginia. Clifton’s great-grandmother “was the first African American woman legally hanged in Virginia for killing the white father of her son” (Pettis 1). Many tales about Mammy Ca’line and Clifton’s great-grandmother were told throughout Clifton’s lifetime and influenced her as well.
Thelma Lucille Sayles was born in Depew, New York, on June 27th, 1936 (Hine 1). Her mother, Thelma Moore Sayles, and Samuel Louis Clifton Senior, her father, suffered economically since their economic condition was in a pinch. Clifton grew up in Depew, “a small steel mill town with a heavy concentration of Polish residents” (Pettis 1). At the age of seventeen, Lucille Clifton enrolled into Howard University on a full scholarship and majored in drama from 1953 to 1955 (Hine 1). There, she came face to face with many “color-conscious” young women and felt the wrath of racism (Pettis 1). In 1969, Lucille Clifton was thirty-three years old with six children, who would eventually influence Clifton’s writings too. That same year, her ...


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...ing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1998-2000. Comp. Clifton. Rochester: BOA Editions, 2000. 20. Print.
- - -. "Slave Ships." 1996. Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1998-2000. Comp. Clifton. Rochester: BOA Editions, 2000. 121. Print.
- - -. "Won't You Celebrate With Me." 1993. The Book of Light. Comp. Clifton. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1993. 25. Print.
Hine, Darlene Clark, ed. “Clifton, Lucille.” American Women’s History Online. Facts on File, 1997. 1-3. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
“Lucille Clifton.” Poets.org. The Academy of American Poets, 1997-2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. http://poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/79 .
Pettis, Joyce. “Lucille Clifton.” American Mosaic: The African American Experience. ABC-CLIO, n.d. 1-2. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
Smith, Robert C. “Civil Rights Movement.” African-American History Online. Facts On File, 2014. 1-3. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

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