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He was the only black child at Dayton Central High School but was a member of the debating society, editor of the school paper, and president of the school's literary society. After graduating he worked as an elevator operator one of the few jobs he was able to get because of his race until he established the Dayton Tattler, a black-oriented newsletter he published with the financial backing of the Wright brothers.

He published his first book of poetry, Oak and Ivy , in , and was praised by Frederick Douglas as "the most promising young colored man in America. Dunbar moved to Washington in and lived at U Street. Beginning in , Dunbar entered a downward spiral of depression, tuberculosis, and alcohol abuse.

He died in Dayton in , and Washington's premier black high school was named in his honor.

African American Women during Slavery and Freedom

As the founder of black literary criticism, Sterling Brown is also known for his frank portraits of black people and incorporation of African-American folklore and contemporary style. Brown is known as a poet, writer, and teacher. Jazz, the blues, work songs, spirituals, and his concerns about race in America influenced his poetry.


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Brown is a native to Washington, DC. There he was an influential teacher who encouraged many African-American writers. Students nicknamed him "the red ink man" because he wrote more on their papers than they had written in the first place. Publishing With Us.

Book Authors Journal Authors. Free Preview. Buy eBook. Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover. FAQ Policy. About this book In this insightful and provocative volume, Rameyreveals spirituals and slave songs to be a crucial element in American literature. Show all.

ISBN 13: 9781349536337

Fenner, Frederic G. Rathbun, and Miss Bessie Cleaveland Two interconnected themes appear in a number of these early and important commentaries and collections that seem to denote almost antithetical, or at least paradoxical, responses to slave songs.


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The result, in terms of literary appraisal and categorization or noncategorization has been to marginalize slave songs for nearly two centuries, based on the moment in time when slave songs solidified as we might recognize them today. Part of the distancing of the African American slaves and their songs resulted from their mode of worship, which was described by white observers as unlike anything they had ever experienced.

These topics are addressed in chapter 2 in the context of theology and literature, which are conjoined themes throughout the history of the lyric poetry tradition. It was a strange enjoyment, therefore, to be suddenly brought into the midst of a kindred world of unwritten songs, as simple and indigenous as the Border Minstrelsy, more uniformly plaintive, almost always more quaint, and often as essentially poetic. Look at de people dat is born of God.

Maya Angelou | Poetry Foundation

Higginson was not alone in his raptures that combined admiration with unconscious misunderstanding and cultural superiority. In that chapter, I discuss the selective receptions of slave songs by differing audiences, and how such multiple understandings and interpretations were transmitted by means of creative metaphors and other sophisticated literary, linguistic, psychological, and philo- sophical processes.

It is a psychologically and socioculturally challenging notion that slavery has produced aesthetic beauty and that kidnapped and enslaved individuals could have been the progenitors of an esteemed American literary tradition. Some of the antipathy towards slave songs also came from some of the newly freed African Americans who experienced an initial period of understandable revulsion towards anything having to do with plantation culture during and after Reconstruction.

Part of this new respect—and even the fact of keeping slave songs alive to the present— can be credited to the role played by the Historically Black Colleges and Universities HBCUs in performing them publicly and framing them as a treasured legacy. One of the few things that many black and white individuals alike seemed to agree on after Emancipation were that slave songs should not be con- sidered poetry. For many white Americans, it was because it was unimaginable that African Americans—still widely discriminated against—had produced something as august as lyric poetry. At first it was a hard sell for George Leonard White, their direc- tor and guiding spirit, to persuade the Fisk Jubilee Singers to perform slave songs.

The situation of the Fisk Jubilee Singers holds similarities to that of Dunbar himself, whose vernacular poetry experienced a popularity that his formal verse never fully reached. But fifty years later, John Wesley Work quoted a Mr.

Lauri Ramey - "A History of African American Poetry" - Duriel E. Harris

Nothing more charac- teristic of a race exists, but it is characteristic of the Negro, not the American race. Through it a primitive people poured out its emotions with wonderful expressiveness.

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It no more expresses our emotions than Indian music does. I am persuaded of the sincerity of Higginson, Allen, Garrison, and others in their heroic efforts to transcribe and preserve slave songs. In his essay on slave songs in The New Negro , Alain Locke argued that slave songs were both uniquely black and uniquely American, a reminder of the uncertain relationship between what it meant to be American and what it meant to be black in America, which is addressed in chapter 3 of this book. But the very elements which make them uniquely expressive of the Negro make them at the same time deeply representative of the soil that produced them.

Thus, as uniquely spiri- tual products of American life, they become nationally as well as racially characteristic.

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How much more shocking would it have been in —the year that James Weldon Johnson and J. Mirroring the thirty-year period that served as the seminal era for transcribing and preserving slave songs, the s were a bellwether era for scholarship on this subject. This decade was a remarkably com- pressed and dynamic time for research relating to slave songs, coin- ciding with a general interest in African American studies, issues of civil rights and related nationally focused topics reflecting a burst of American self-archiving. It is astounding to think that during this ten- year period such path-breaking and definitive works in their fields were published—still the key texts in terms of historical research for the study of slave songs—such as Black Culture and Black Consciousness by Lawrence W.

Levine , Slave Religion by Albert J.