black has every right to be angry: Poems by Ashley Elizabeth

black has every right to be angry

by Ashley Elizabeth


This collection tells stories for those who can’t. Those who are scared. Those who are silenced. Those who need an extra push. black has every right to be angry evinces the notion that Black people—and Black women, especially—are angry, and that this anger is more than justified. Skillfully weaving bloody history lessons, the Black body as scientific experiment, and the contemporary world of police violence, systemic racism, and feminism into the narrative of modern society, Ashley Elizabeth’s gut-punching poems allow space for thought, remembrance, and reflection on the lives taken too soon and what we can do to fight the power.

Content Warning: slavery, racism, human zoos, non-consensual medical experiments, strong language, sexuality, murder, lynching, graphic depictions of violence, police brutality


“Ashley Elizabeth’s black has every right to be angry is powerful, evocative, and conducive to exposing an ancient rage. This linguistically masterful collection of poems offers perspective into the pain and passion embodied by Black people subjected to slavery, segregation, and systemic racism in the West. Elizabeth advocates for Black people who have been denied their personhood—their bodies used for scientific and political advancement, used for labor, and often used to satisfy a lust for cruelty. black has every right to be angry is distinctly about identity and heritage, and as Elizabeth calls upon her ancestors and contemporaries to empower her through the telling of harrowing stories, themes of reclamation and renaissance also arise. With these poems, Elizabeth has deftly manifested the raw emotion produced by analyzing a history of injustice and violence toward Black people; principal among these emotions is anger.”
—Mel Sherrer,
author of Vice Grip

black has every right to be angry is a call to rage & to action, a current & historical accounting for the sweeping racial injustices perpetrated against Black Americans in our country, & the testimony of a Black woman and teacher. Ashley Elizabeth has written a powerful, raw & unsparing work of art that took my breath away. If ‘black body is whittling board’ & ‘melanin will always be a weapon / used against you,’ what sort of reckoning must there be? And what does it mean to ‘serve a god / who takes your one and only son?’ These raw & compelling poems ask us not to turn away from history & truth; they demand that we face the wounds that still bleed, that we read them as ‘heavy hymns / hummed by ashen ghosts.’ They ask us to ‘refuse / to pledge allegiance’ to systems that continue to deny & perpetuate racism. Elizabeth’s collection is an unforgettable narrative & a triumph.”
—Joan Kwon Glass,
author of Night Swim

“What history are we not doomed from when the only way we have been taught it is from a white mouth? In Ashley Elizabeth’s collection black has every right to be angry, we are retaught the history of hurt passed down through generations of systemic, emotional, and physical racism. Elizabeth doesn’t just ask us to understand the cycle of violence toward the Black body but also to stand up and fight against this cycle. There seems to be around every gun wielded toward a Black person, another protest considered a riot, another reason to end the life of a Black child; Elizabeth writes, ‘In [insert year] a black [man/woman/child/person] / was killed by [police, white supremacists, racists] / for existing // and there was a [photo/video/phone call] / shared to social media or heard about on the [street/radio]. / We wept,’ and truly this is what we all continue to do, watch the cycle unfold and weep.”
—Jason B. Crawford,
author of Year of the Unicorn Kidz

“Once, I was pulled over more than five times in a year. Each time I was let off with a small nod and a ‘get your brake lights fixed’ or ‘get your car inspected’ or ‘you were driving too fast.’ As black has every right to be angry explores, this is not the case for Black bodies in the United States. Far too many people don’t make it home. This powerful collection of poetry is one that every white person should read, sit with, digest, and then ask themselves what they’re doing to dismantle racism in their lives. But this collection doesn’t stop at the intersection of Black bodies and the history of racism in the U.S. This collection digs into the treatment of women and Black women at the hands of a patriarchal society that does nothing to protect them. These poems will leave you asking what does the Right to Life, Liberty, and Happiness really mean if at the end of the day you’re afraid to buy a soda? When you’re afraid you won’t make it home?”
—Lynn(e) Schmidt,
author of Dead Dog Poems

“Ashley Elizabeth’s collection, black has every right to be angry, is a guttural echo that has made home of my bones. Each poem is simultaneously full of beauty and horror. I cannot express my gratitude enough for both.”
—Jennifer E. Hudgens, author of How We Met with Our Ghosts

You Might Also Like:

• Poetry | BIPOC+ | Social Justice
• Little Pigeon Chapbook Series
• 4” x 6” Perfectbound Trade Paperback
• Cream Paper, 74 Pages
• Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-946580-44-3
• Paperback ISBN-10: 1-946580-44-9
• Ebook ISBN-13: 978-1-946580-45-0
• Ebook ISBN-10: 1-946580-45-7
• LCCN: 2023947740
• First Edition: November 7, 2023
• Short URL:
• Permalink
• Read Excerpt Sample
• Download Press Release
• Request Review Copy

Cover art by Yori Designs, with design by Leah Angstman.

ASHLEY ELIZABETH (she/her) is a Pushcart-nominated writer and teacher whose work has appeared in SWWIM, Voicemail Poems, Rigorous, and Sage Cigarettes, among other outlets. Ashley’s debut full-length collection, A Family Thing, is forthcoming from Redacted Books/ELJ Editions (August 2024). She is also the author of the chapbook you were supposed to be a friend (Nightingale & Sparrow, 2020). As cofounder of the Estuary Collective, Ashley strives to provide free to low-cost programming for femme- identifying BIPOC. When Ashley isn’t teaching or working as the chapbook editor with Sundress Publications, she habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram (@ae_thepoet). She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her partner and their cats. Ashley is Black before she is anything else.

• Media coming soon

Distribution & Sales

Booksellers can order this book through Ingram for 50% discount with free returns, or through Asterism.

Booksellers ordering direct from us can get a 50/50 split, no shipping costs, free returns accepted. Enter quantity here. If you prefer to be invoiced, please email info [at]

Contributing authors ordering direct from us can enter quantity here. If you prefer to be invoiced, please email info [at]

For reviewers, promotional outlets, or desk copies, please request a copy.