Review of Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance
by Nikki Grimes; illus. by various artists
Intermediate, Middle School, High School    Bloomsbury    144 pp.    g
1/21    978-1-68119-944-3    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68119-945-0    $13.29

Grimes returns to the Harlem Renaissance (One Last Word, rev. 3/17) to showcase the works of some female poets whose literary prowess has long been underestimated and overlooked — Mae V. Cowdery, Anne Spencer, Effie Lee Newsome, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and a dozen others. As in the first volume, each poem from the past is matched with a new, original poem by Grimes, skillfully employing the Golden Shovel form, which allows her to bring the relevance of the past into the reality of the present. For example, Esther Pope’s “Flag Salute,” about the lynching and burning of a teenage boy for an alleged aggression against a white woman, is itself infused with lines of the Pledge of Allegiance. Grimes responds with a poignant poem about the unfulfilled promise of equality for African Americans, accompanied by a dramatic mixed-media illustration of a mother lamenting the loss of a son. Illustrations by nineteen contemporary female artists, including Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Nina Crews, Pat Cummings, and Ekua Holmes, elucidate the connections and amplify evocative messages. The eloquent and stirring voices of Grimes and her counterparts of the past resonate with passion, purpose, and resilience. Back matter includes biographies of the poets and artists as well as a bibliography.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.
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