Rita Dove 

Rita Dove was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Thomas and Beulah.  She is an artist who weaves African-American experience into the broader perspective of international culture. Dove's lyrical and accessible poetry reflects the author's interest in music and drama, as well as her commitment to social justice and her sensitivity to women's issues.

When Rita Dove was appointed poet laureate in 1993, she was forty years old, the youngest poet ever to be elected to that honorary position. She was also the first poet laureate to see the appointment as a mandate to generate public interest in the literary arts. Dove is the second African-American poet laureate, after Gwendolyn Brooks' tenure in the mid-1980s,

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952 as the daughter of the first Black research chemist who, in the 1950s, broke the race barrier in the tire industry. Her mother, Elvira Hord, had achieved honors in high school and would share her passion for reading with her daughter. In 1970 Rita Dove was invited to the White House as a Presidential Scholar, one of the hundred most outstanding high school graduates in the United States that year.

After high school graduation, Dove attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and was a National Achievement Scholar. She graduated summa cum laude (as well as Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi) with a degree in English in 1973, followed by two semesters as a Fulbright scholar at Universität Tübingen in Germany. Rita Dove then joined the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1977.

In 1976 she met the German writer Fred Viebahn, who was a Fulbright fellow in the University of Iowa's International Writing Program while working on her Masters. The couple married in 1979, and their daughter Aviva Chantal Tamu Dove-Viebahn was born in 1983.

Appearances in magazines and anthologies had already won national acclaim for Rita Dove when she published her first poetry collection, The Yellow House on the Corner, with Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1980. It was followed by Museum (1983) and Thomas and Beulah (1986), both also from Carnegie-Mellon.

Thomas and Beulah
, a collection of interrelated poems loosely based on her grandparents' life, earned her the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, making her the second African American poet (after Gwendolyn Brooks in 1950) to receive this prestigious award.

The poems in this collection are loosely based on the lives of Dove's maternal grandparents and are arranged in two sequences: one devoted to Thomas, born in 1900 in Wartrace, Tennessee, and the other to Beulah, born in 1904 in Rockmart, Georgia. Thomas and Beulah is viewed as a departure from Dove's earlier works in both its accessibility and its chronological sequence that has, to use Dove's words, "the kind of sweep of a novel." On the book's cover is a snapshot of a black couple in Akron, Ohio, in the 1940s (actually depicting not the author's grandparents, but an aunt and uncle).

Click on the links below for detailed information and photos on African American artists who rose to the top of their field

Harlem Renaissance

In the early 1920's there was a movement called the "Negro" or "Harlem Renaissance". This resurgence of literature, knowledge, and the arts coming out of New York was powerful.


Artists like the Florida "Highwaymen" found an unique way to sell and display their art, by producing in mass quantities and selling their artwork on the side of the road.


African American musician Charlie Parker was one of the most widely influential soloists in jazz history and one of the creators of a new style of playing called bop, or bebop.

Actors & Actresses

When “Gone With the Wind” opened in 1939, Jim Crow laws prevented McDaniel from attending the film’s premiere. When she won her Oscar, she wasn’t even seated with the rest of her cast.


Don't miss a single page. Find everything you need on our complete sitemap directory.


Listen or read the top speeches from African Americans. Read more


Read about the great African Americans who fought in wars. Read more


African Americans invented many of the things we use today. Read more


Thin jazz, think art, think of great actors and find them here. Read more


Follow the history of Black Americans from slave ships to the presidency. Read more


Olympic winners, MVPS of every sport, and people who broke the color barrier. Read more

Civil Rights Activists

These men and women risked and sometimes lost their life to fight for the cause. Read more


Meet the people who worked to change the system from the inside. Read more