2012 45¢ Robert Hayden
20th Century American Poets
Issue Date: April 21, 2012
City: Los Angeles, CA
Printed By: Ashton Potter
Printing Method: Offset
Perforations: Die cut 10 ¾ x 11
Raised in the Detroit ghetto known as Paradise Valley and shuffled between his parents’ home and the foster family next door, Robert Hayden (1913-80) endured a traumatic childhood. These experiences provided a wealth of inspiration for his career as one of America’s leading African-American poets.
Hayden described his childhood as his “dark nights of the soul.” His poor vision and small stature made him a target of his peers, but he found happy solitude in reading. After attending Detroit City College (later Wayne State University), Hayden worked for the Federal Writers’ Projects, researching African-American history and culture. This experience proved to have a great impact on his poetry. Much of Hayden’s writing focused on the difficult situations faced by African-Americans. He also used African-American slang and folk speech. Although much of his work focused on the lives of African-Americans, Hayden refused to “relinquish the title of American writer for any narrower identity.”
Hayden’s work became internationally recognized in the 1960s, at which time he also won the grand prize for poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts. Among his many other honors and accomplishments, Hayden was the first African-American to be appointed the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (which later became known as the Poet Laureate).