Brown Thrush: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Students. Vol. 2



Brown Thrush: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Students. Vol. 2

Uniform title

Brown Thrush

This edition

"The Brown Thrush: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Students." Ed. Helen M. O'Brien, Lillian W. Voorhees, and Hugh M. Gloster. Vol. 2. Memphis, TN: Malcolm-Roberts Publishing Co., 1935.

Table of contents

● n/a, but includes the following:
● Vesta E. Stephens / Aminds
● Vesta E. Stephens / Aunt Lisa
● Vesta E. Stephens / Jennie
● Vesta E. Stephens / Autumn Leaves--Roundel
● Louise Moses / Passing
● Louise Moses / Night Gossip
● Louise Moses / Explanation
● J. Henderson Brooks
● Hugh M. Gloster

About the anthology

● This volume includes "poetry from students at eight African American institutions: Atlanta, Fisk, Hampton, LeMoyne, Straight, Talladega, Tillotson, and Tougaloo" (McBlain Books).

● The title the "brown thrush" echoes the title of a religious-didactic poem for children by Lucy Larcom (1824-1893) (published in her "Childhood Songs" [Boston: James R. Osgood, 1875], 72-73), which had been set to music by Dudley Buck as "The Merry Brown Thrush" (New York: Schirmer, 1883).

● The phrase was familiar in the African American community in the 1930s: e.g. the church group, the Brown Thrush Quartette in Kansas City, Kansas; the actress-singer Theresa Harris is referred to as the "little brown thrush" of many films in "The Chicago Defender" (9 March 1935: 8, col. 4; see also 25 Aug. 1934: 8, col. 5; and 1 June 1935: 7, col. 4); and the stage, screen and radio performer Etta Moten was known as the "Brown Thrush of Song" (as the "Negro Star" newspaper in Wichita, Kansas noted with respect to her concert performance in Tulsa, Oklahoma in Dec. 1937). A little later, Irma Margaret Allen, performer and composer, was also known as the "Brown Thrush of Song" (appearing in Little Rock, Arkansas in November 1944).

Reviews and notices of anthology

● "Verses by Anniston Colored Writers Published in Book." "The Anniston Star" (Anniston, Alabama) 7 Oct. 1938: 7.
"Four poems by Vesta E. Stephens, colored teacher in Anniston, are included in 'The Brown Thrush,' an anthology of Negro student verse published by the Malcolm Press of Memphis. In addition there are three poems by Louise Moses of Anniston, a graduate of Talladega College.
"The Stephens contributions are 'Aminds,' 'Aunt Lisa,' 'Jennie' and 'Autumn Leaves--Roundel.' Those by Louise Moses are 'Passing,' 'Night Gossip' and 'Explanation.'
"The anthology was published, according to a forward, 'to encourage Negro student writers of verse in their endeavor in this medium of art.' Demand for the first volume was so great, it was reported, that other volumes have been issued.
"Vesta Stephens has written children's stories and plays, which have been produced in her school here. She graduated at Talladega College." [full text of notice]

Commentary on anthology

● Lawrence P. Jackson, in "The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960" (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2011), writes, with reference to "Challenge," the literary journal edited by Dorothy West: "West wanted to turn to new sources of talent, but she was not particularly in sync with them. The black colleges regularly frustrated West because of what she thought was the poor caliber of their literary submissions. In reality, it was hard to distinguish her journal's work from the 1934 [sic] collection of poetry published out of Memphis and with Fisk and LeMoyne colleges backing it, 'Brown Thrush.' And then there was a choice distinction. Edited by the up and coming literary critic Hugh Gloster, 'Brown Thrush' included poetry that had begun to state more plainly than ever the condition of psychological tension and angst that West wanted to approach more distantly. In Tennessee, black students were writing poems like 'Jungle Revenge,' and 'Once I Was Black,' descriptions of lynched lovers, and showing pride in African origins. But the Renaissance talents of the 1920s gave up Harlem as home base and broke themselves up over whether or not to write celebrations of the folk, racial persecution, or social-class critique" (33).

See also

● Lillian W. Voorhees Papers, 1892-1973. Amistad Research Center. Tulane University.
Includes "advertising, correspondence, proof sheets, plays and poems, relating to "The Brown Thrush: Anthology of Verse by Negro Students" of which she was co-editor [1st ed., 1932; 2nd ed., 1935]."
● Simmons, LaKisha Michelle. "The Poetry of Vesta Stephens: In Search of Black Girls' Gardens." "Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature" 36.2 (Fall 2017): 449-61.

Cited in

● Jahn 1965: 216 (no. 2208).
● [not in Kinnamon]

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