Poet & Activist

“I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.” — Amanda Gorman

Born in Los Angeles in 1998, Amanda Gorman was raised by her mother, an English teacher who taught her children to eschew TV viewing in favor of books and creative play. At a young age, Amanda developed a love for reading and writing. But unlike many children who fall in love with the written word, Amanda was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder that made pronouncing some letters in the alphabet nearly impossible.

Over the years, Amanda employed her tenacious spirit and determination to overcome her speech difficulties and hone her craft. In middle school, Amanda played “literary dress up,” where she would read a stack of books, inhabit the author’s voice, and then deconstruct the text to extract the work’s best characteristics. Eventually, this ritual led her on a path to develop her voice unapologetically while creating work that represented Black girls who looked like her but weren’t featured in literature. While a student at Harvard University, Amanda became the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 after she applied for the honor and was selected.

Fueled by her desire to express herself and effect change, Amanda worked consistently to challenge her speech difficulties, which at times are still a problem for her. In the last couple of years, she developed a proficiency for saying the letter “r,” which she practiced by singing songs such as “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the Broadway hit Hamilton.

Amanda graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2020. During the national uprising and crusade against racial injustice in the U.S. that same year, Amanda was tapped to host PBS Kids Talk About: Race & Racism. In her poem “The Hill We Climb” that she wrote for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s inauguration, Amanda spoke with a fierce eloquence and called for our nation’s healing and unity. This self-described wordsmith and change-maker understands the power of words and how she will use them to shape a more equitable future for all. Amanda Gorman plans to run for President in 2036.

— Written by Janelle Conner

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