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Countee Cullen: A Colorful Poet

By October 31, 2012

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In 1924, a college student at New York University wrote an editorial in the Brooklyn Eagle, explaining how he'd like to be viewed as a poet. He wrote, "If I am going to be a poet at all, I am going to be POET and not NEGRO POET. This is what has hindered the development of artists among us. Their one note has been the concern with their race. That is all very well, none of us can get away from it. I cannot at times. You will see it in my verse. The consciousness of this is too poignant at times. I cannot escape it. But what I mean is this: I shall not write of negro subjects for the purpose of propaganda. That is not what a poet is concerned with. Of course, when the emotion rising out of the fact that I am a negro is strong, I express it."

His name was Countee Cullen and within the next two years, his fame as an African-American poet would skyrocket with the release of his collections of poetry, Color in 1925 and Copper Sun in 1927.

Throughout Cullen's career as a writer, he explored themes such as racial identity, pride, rage and alienation while writing lyrical poetry.

As we National Book Month winds down, I encourage you to read the works of Cullen and other Harlem Renaissance writers. Then, let me know, do you agree or disagree with Cullen's desire to be a poet versus an African-American poet?

Suggest Reading

Alain Leroy Locke

James Weldon Johnson

Claude Mckay

Publications of the Harlem Renaissance


January 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm
(1) Samuel Vroom says:

I agree with County Cullen’s view that “A poet should be a poet and not a Negro Poet”.

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