The U.S. Postal Service recently unveiled a new series of 10 stamps honoring American poets. Two of the 10 poets honored in the stamp series are African Americans.
Robert Hayden (1913-1980) was born in Detroit and raised by a foster family. Severely nearsighted and small of stature, he spent much of his younger years absorbed in books. He enrolled at what is now Wayne State University and then joined the Federal Writer’s Project. He published his first collection of poems, Heart-Shape in the Dust, in 1940.
Hayden then enrolled in a master’s degree program at the University of Michigan. In 1946 Hayden joined the faculty at Fisk University in Nashville and taught there for 23 years. In 1969 he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan.
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (1917-2000) was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She won the prize in 1950 for her collection entitled, Annie Allen. A native of Topeka, Kansas, Brooks received more than 70 honorary degrees from American colleges and universities.
In 1970 the Gwendolyn Brooks Chair in Black Literature and Creative Writing was established at Chicago State University.