This lesson was done over a 3-day period of about 15 minutes each day in my middle school ELA classroom.
It has 3 poems formatted into copies for the students:
"Sympathy" by Paul Laurence Dunbar
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
"Caged Bird" by Alicia Keys
We read the poems in that order, one per day, and discussed the first day that Dubar's parents were former slaves. (See biographical information at http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/paul-laurence-dunbar . I printed a copy of this information so my students could read it silently prior to reading the poem together. The second day we read Angelou’s poem and talked a bit about her life and the things in her life about which she could have been writing. See biographical information at http://www.mayaangelou.com/biography/ . My students and I looked at this information online together after reading the poem, but before discussing. The third day we listened to Key’s poem/song and discussed her perspective. Listen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wipAza6kWw .
There’s much that can be done with these poems including writing a comparison essay and/or an analysis essay of two or three of them. Also, student could write about how one author’s perspective has influenced others.