33 pages 1 hour read

Kwame Alexander

The Undefeated

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2019

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Poem Analysis

Analysis: “The Undefeated”

“The Undefeated” is, more than anything else, a poem of empowerment and celebration. This is evident from the title of the poem. While so much art, commentary, and discussion about African American history focuses on oppression, subjugation, discrimination, and pain, Alexander focuses on this idea of “the undefeated.” This is a declaration at the beginning of the poem that regardless of all the pain and suffering Black people have faced in the history of America, they have not been defeated. Alexander shows this by highlighting the figures in Black history who have risen above circumstance and left a lasting legacy; those who have shown strength, courage, beauty, and humanity in the face of countless obstacles.

This hopeful approach does not disregard history or shy away from the atrocities that have scarred America, though. Instead, Alexander includes the atrocities of slavery, segregation, racial hatred, police brutality, and discrimination just enough to remind readers of the obstacles the people he is celebrating faced and continue to face. He also includes these things not to focus on the violence or the perpetrators of that violence but to focus on the people who were victims of the violence. Alexander does not want their lives to be forgotten or erased, and he doesn’t want their connection to historical moments to erase their autonomy and the memory of them as people.