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Femi  Lewis

Arna Bontemps: Poet and Archivist

By October 31, 2012

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In the anthology, The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, Arna Bontemps' biography is short, describing him as "not a prolific poet." I would agree--considering that Bontemps' poetry never matched the rage of Claude McKay or the lyricism of Countee Cullen.

However, I do believe that Bontemps was a prolific writer and a vital archivist of African-American culture. Although Bontemps published only a few books during the Harlem Renaissance, his work as the head librarian of Fisk University is remarkable. In his twenty-five years as head librarian, Bontemps developed a collection of African-American literature and culture. Most notably, the Langston Hughes Collection, housed at Fisk University and the James Weldon Johnson Collection at Yale University.

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