This Day in History: 1947-04-29

American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and professor Yusef Komunyakaa, original name in full James William Brown, Jr., is born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. Professor Komunyakaa is known for his autobiographical poems about race, the Vietnam War, and jazz and blues, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poems Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977–1989 (1993). From 1999 to 2005 Komunyakaa was chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and in 2006 he became Distinguished Senior Poet (later global Distinguished Professor of English) in the creative writing program at New York University. In addition to teaching and writing, Komunyakaa collaborated on several musical projects: with composer T.J. Anderson, he wrote librettos for the operas Slip Knot (2003), based on the historical testament of an enslaved African American man wrongly hanged for raping a white woman, and The Reincarnated Beethoven, based on a newspaper article about the self-image of a black teenager, among others. Learn more.