Amanda S. C. Gorman (born 1998) is an American poet and activist. Her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. Gorman was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. She published the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015. In 2021, she delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden. Her inauguration poem generated international acclaim, stimulated her two books to reach best-seller status, and earned her a professional management contract.
Early life and education
Gorman was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1998. She was raised by her single mother, Joan Wicks, a 6th-grade English teacher in Watts, with her two siblings. She has a twin sister, Gabrielle, who is an activist and filmmaker. Gorman has said she grew up in an environment with limited television access. She has described her young self as a “weird child” who enjoyed reading and writing and was encouraged by her mother.
Gorman has an auditory processing disorder and is hypersensitive to sound. She also had a speech impediment during childhood. Gorman participated in speech therapy during her childhood and Elida Kocharian of The Harvard Crimson wrote in 2018, “Gorman doesn’t view her speech impediment as a crutch—rather, she sees it as a gift and a strength.” Gorman told The Harvard Gazette in 2018, “I always saw it as a strength because since I was experiencing these obstacles in terms of my auditory and vocal skills, I became really good at reading and writing. I realized that at a young age when I was reciting the Marianne Deborah Williamson quote that ’Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’ to my mom.” In 2021, Gorman told CBS This Morning co-host Anthony Mason that she used songs as a form of speech therapy, and explained “My favorite thing to practice was the song Aaron Burr, Sir, from “Hamilton” because it is jam-packed with R’s. And I said, ’if I can keep up with Leslie in this track, then I am on my way to being able to say this R in a poem.”
Gorman attended New Roads, a private school in Santa Monica, for grades K–12. As a senior, she received a Milken Family Foundation college scholarship. She studied sociology at Harvard College, graduating cum laude in 2020, as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Gorman’s art and activism focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. She has said she was inspired to become a youth delegate for the United Nations in 2013 after watching a speech by Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Gorman was chosen as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014. In 2014 it was reported that Gorman was “editing the first draft of a novel the 16‑year‑old has been writing over the last two years.” She published the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015.
In 2016, Gorman founded the nonprofit organization One Pen One Page, a youth writing and leadership program. In 2017, she became the first author to be featured on XQ Institute’s Book of the Month, a monthly giveaway to share inspiring Gen Z’s favorite books. She wrote a tribute for black athletes for Nike and has a book deal with Viking Children’s Books to write two children’s picture books.
In 2017, Gorman became the first youth poet to open the literary season for the Library of Congress, and she has read her poetry on MTV. She wrote “In This Place: An American Lyric” for her September 2017 performance at the Library of Congress, which commemorated the inauguration of Tracy K. Smith as Poet Laureate of the United States. The Morgan Library and Museum acquired her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric)” and displayed it in 2018 near works by Elizabeth Bishop.
While at Harvard, Gorman became the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017. She was chosen from five finalists. In 2017, Gorman won a $10,000 grant from media company OZY in the annual OZY Genius Awards through which 10 college students are given “the opportunity to pursue their outstanding ideas and envisioned innovations”.
In 2017, Gorman said she intends to run for president in 2036 and she has subsequently often repeated this hope. On being selected as one of Glamour magazine’s 2018 “College Women of the Year”, she said: “Seeing the ways that I as a young black woman can inspire people is something I want to continue in politics. I don’t want to just speak works; I want to turn them into realities and actions.” After she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, Hillary Clinton tweeted her support for Gorman’s 2036 aspiration.
In 2019, Gorman was chosen as one of The Root magazine’s “Young Futurists”, an annual list of “the 25 best and brightest young African-Americans who excel in the fields of social justice and activism, arts and culture, enterprise and corporate innovation, science and technology, and green innovation”.
In May 2020, Gorman appeared in an episode of the web series Some Good News hosted by John Krasinski, where she had the opportunity to virtually meet Oprah Winfrey and issued a virtual commencement speech to those who could not attend commencements due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
In 2020, Gorman presented “Earthrise”, a poem focused on the climate crisis.
Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021, and is the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration in United States history.[ Jill Biden recommended her for the inauguration. After January 6, 2021, Gorman amended her poem’s wording to address the storming of the United States Capitol. During the week before the inauguration, she told Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, “My hope is that my poem will represent a moment of unity for our country” and “with my words, I’ll be able to speak to a new chapter and era for our nation.”
Before her performance, Gorman told “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason, “One of the preparations that I do always whenever I perform is I say a mantra to myself, which is ’I’m the daughter of black writers. We’re descended from freedom fighters who broke through chains and changed the world. They call me.’ And that is the way in which I prepare myself for the duty that needs to get done.”
Soon after Gorman’s performance at the inauguration, her two upcoming books, the poetry collection The Hill We Climb and a project for youth, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, were at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Both are scheduled to be released in September 2021. A book version of the poem “The Hill We Climb” is scheduled to be released on March 16, 2021, with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey, and each of Gorman’s three upcoming books will have first printings of one million copies.
IMG Models and its parent company WME signed Gorman for representation in fashion, beauty, and talent endorsements. She is represented in the publishing industry by Writers House and by the Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown and Passman law firm.
Gorman was commissioned to compose an original poem to be recited at Super Bowl LV’s pregame ceremony, to be held on February 7, 2021, as an introduction to the three honorary captains who would preside over the coin-toss.
Gorman is a black Catholic, a member of St. Brigid Catholic Church in her hometown of Los Angeles. On the day after the Biden inaugural, she appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where she said that Corden was “[her] favorite human being ever created.”Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word NYC, described her as a “powerhouse” and has joked that “[Gorman’s] bio goes out of date every two weeks.”In 2014 it was reported that she “aspires to be a human rights advocate.”
Honors and recognition
2014: Chosen as youth poet laureate of Los Angeles
2017: Chosen as National Youth Poet Laureate
2017: OZY Genius Award
2018: Named one of Glamour magazine’s College Women of the Year
2019: Named on The Root’s “Young Futurists” list
2021: Selected to read at the inauguration of Joe Biden, becoming the youngest poet ever to read at a US presidential inauguration
The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough. Urban Word LA. 2015. ISBN 978-0-9900122-9-0.
Taylor, Keren, ed. (2013). “Candy Cane”; “Poetry Is”. You are here : the WriteGirl journey. Los Angeles: WriteGirl Publications. pp. 210, 281. ISBN 978-0-98370812-4. OCLC 868918187.
The Hill We Climb: Poems. Viking Books for Young Readers. 2021. ISBN 978-0-593-46506-6. OCLC 1232185776.
The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country. Viking Books for Young Readers. 2021. ISBN 978-0-593-46527-1. OCLC 1232234825.
Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. Viking Books for Young Readers. 2021. ISBN 978-0-593-20322-4. OCLC 1232149089.
Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, 2021, Audible. (ISBN 0593203224, 978-0-593-20322-4). 10 mins.
The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, 2021, Audible. (ISBN 059346527X, 978-0593465271). 1 hr.
“Native People Are Taking Center Stage. Finally.”. November 17, 2018. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
“I’m Not Here to Answer Your Black History Month Questions”. February 13, 2019. The New York Times.