Sonia Sanchez


Poet, playwright, professor, activist and one of the foremost leaders of the Black Studies movement, Sonia Sanchez was born Wilsonia Benita Driver on September 9, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama. She earned a BA from Hunter College in 1955 and attended graduate school at New York University, where she studied with the poet Louise Bogan. Sanchez also attended workshops in Greenwich Village, where she met poets such as Amiri Baraka, Haki R. Madhubuti, and Etheridge Knight, whom she later married. During the early 1960s Sanchez was an integrationist, supporting the ideas of the Congress of Racial Equality. But after listening to the ideas of Malcolm X, her work and ideas took on a separationist slant. She began teaching in 1965, first on the staff of the Downtown Community School in New York and later at San Francisco State College (now University). There she was a pioneer in developing Black Studies courses, including a class in African American women’s literature. In 1969, Sanchez published her first book of poetry for adults, Homecoming. She followed that up with 1970’s We a BaddDDD People, which especially focused on African American vernacular as a poetic medium. At about the same time her first plays, Sister Son/ ji and The Bronx Is Next, were being produced or published. In 1971, she published her first work for children, It’s A New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs. Sanchez’s other work for children include The Adventures of Fathead, Smallhead, and Squarehead (1973) and Sound Investment: Short Stories for Young Readers (1980). Sanchez’s work for adults is similarly committed to radical politics as well as visionary imagery. The author of over sixteen books of poetry, Sanchez has also edited several books, and contributed poetry and articles on black culture to anthologies and periodicals. She is one of 20 African American women featured in the interactive exhibit “Freedom Sisters,” at the Cincinnati Museum Center. An important and influential scholar and teacher, Sanchez taught at Manhattan Community College, Amherst College, and Temple University, where she was the first Presidential Fellow. Her many honors and awards include the PEN Writing Award, the American Book Award for Poetry, the National Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the National Education Association Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Arts Foundation. She has received the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women International League for Peace and Freedom, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, the Langston Hughes Poetry Award, the Robert Frost Medal, the Robert Creeley Award, the Harper Lee Award, and the National Visionary Leadership Award, among many others. Source

excerpt from “For Tupac Amaru Shakur”

who goes there? who is this young man born lonely?

who walks there? who goes toward death

whistling through the water

without his chorus? without his posse? without his song?


it is autumn now

in me autumn grieves

in this carved gold of shifting faces

my eyes confess to the fatigue of living.


i ask: does the morning weep for the dead?

i ask: were the bullets conscious atoms entering his chest?

i ask: did you see the light anointing his life?


the day i heard the sound of your death, my brother

i walked outside in the park

we your mothers wanted to see you safely home.

i remembered the poems in your mother's eyes as she

panther-laced warred against the state;

the day you became dust again

we your mothers held up your face green with laughter

and i saw you a child again outside your mother's womb

picking up the harsh handbook of Black life;

the day you passed into our ancestral rivers,

we your mothers listened for your intoxicating voice:

and i heard you sing of tunes bent back in a

cold curse against black

                    against black (get back)

                    against black (get back)


we anoint your life

in this absence

we anoint our tongues

with your magic. 






Literary Movements:

Black Arts Movement

Rap & Hip Hop

Anthology Years:



Death & Loss

Rap & Hip Hop

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


a meditation on death, often in thoughtful mourning lamentation


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered

Slant Rhyme

A rhyme where the words have similar sounds in their stressed syllables.