Throughout history, poetry has always spoken in the most challenging, tragic, and formative circumstances. Poets have been at the forefront of wielding language to create change for the people. Explore the work of Elizabeth AlexanderAgha Shahid AliMaya AngelouJames BaldwinMarilyn ChinAracelis GirmayLangston HughesJune JordanAudre LordeClaudia Rankine, Roger ReevesAdrienne Rich, and Muriel Rukeyser, to name just a few.

Listen to Audre Lorde read “A Song for Many Movements.”

Find protest poetry, including poems about equality, social justice, human rights, Black Lives Matter, and climate change: 

Poems of Protest, Rebellion, & Hope

Ars Poetica #1,002: Rally” by Elizabeth Alexander
I dreamed a pronouncement / about poetry and peace...

Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history...

Unlawful Assembly” by Kimberly Blaeser
Don't hurry to safety...

The Pedestrian” by Tommye Blount
When the pickup truck, with its side mirror...

litany” by Mahogany L. Browne
today i am a black woman in america...

No, Kanye, it’s not LIKE we’re mentally in prison” by Erica Dawson
We don't have heirlooms. Haven't owned things long enough. We're hoarding us...

Mantahhan is a Lenape Word” by Natalie Diaz
It is December and we must be brave...

How We Could Have Lived or Died This Way” by Martín Espada
I see the dark-skinned bodies falling in the street as their ancestors fell...

A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay 
Is that Eric Garner worked...

You are Who I Love” by Aracelis Girmay
You, selling roses out of a silver grocery cart...

What Do We Do—Now” by Ellen Hagan
We mourn, we bless,...

Angrily Standing Outside in the Wind” by Brenda Hillman
—kept losing self control...

I, Too” by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.

Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes
Let it be the dream it used to be...

When I Rise Up” by Georgia Douglas Johnson
When I rise up above the earth...

Defiant” by Patricia Spears Jones
Fruit from one vine tangles with another...

I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies” by June Jordan
1. I will no longer lightly walk behind...

Firing Squad” by Ilya Kaminsky
On balconies, sunlight. On poplars, sunlight on our lips...

Breathe. As in. (shadow)” by Rosamond S. King
Breathe / . As in what if...

A New National Anthem” by Ada Limón
The truth is, I've never cared for the Natonal...

Now That We Have Tasted Hope” by Khaled Mattawa
Now that we have come out of hiding,...

America” by Claude McKay
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,...

declaration” by Andrés Montoya
i have found / the face / of story / lying again...

Red Brocade” by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Arabs used to say,...

from Citizen, VI [On the train the woman standing]” by Claudia Rankine
On the train the woman standing makes you understand there are no seats available...

A House Called Tomorrow” by Alberto Ríos
You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—...

little prayer” by Danez Smith
let ruin end here...

Good Bones” by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children...

Unrest in Baton Rouge” by Tracy K. Smith
Our bodies run with ink dark blood...

from “denoument” by Anne Waldman
Resistance. Had to resist. Ward off. Deflect...

Amos (Postscript, 1968)” by Margaret Walker
From Montgomery to Memphis he marches...

The Women’s Litany” by Margaret Widdemer
Let us in through the guarded gate,...

Protest” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
To sin by silence, when we should protest,...

Make Me Human or Give Me Death” by May Yang
This matters because i’ve lived on that side of life that you all have made for...

juxtaposing the black boy & the bullet” by Danez Smith
one is hard & the other tried to be...

Read more poems of protest.

Read about Political Poetry in our glossary of poetic terms

Read more poems on social justice.

shelter in poems

Shelter in Poems

The Academy of American Poets invites you to Shelter in Poems with work that inspires courage,...

I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing

In March 2020, the Poetry Coalition...

Politics and Social Justice: Poems for Teens

Politics and Social Justice: Poems for Teens

Browse poems about human rights, protest, social justice, and contemporary and historical political...
June Jordan Reading

Lines of poetry for posters, banners, or placards.

What would happen if one woman told the truth about

         her life?

    The world would split open

Muriel Rukeyser

we are the ones we have been waiting for

June Jordan, from “Poem for South African Women

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie

W. H. Auden, from “September 1, 1939

Hold fast to dreams.

Langston Hughes, from “Dreams

I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “Dirge Without Music

And naught may daunt her,—she hath strength for all.

Emma Lazarus, from “Work

The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox , from “Protest

Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed
for children walking to school?

Matthew Olzmann, from “Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

"For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action."

Audre Lorde

"Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives."

Audre Lorde

What would happen if one woman told the truth about

        her life?

     The world would split open

Muriel Rukeyser

“I love America more than any other country in this world. And, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

James Baldwin

Read more lines of protest.