African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927



African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927

This edition

"African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927" . Ed. Joan Sherman. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1997. 96 pp.

Online access

Table of contents

[Joan Sherman] / Note
● Phillis Wheatley Peters / On Being Brought from Africa to America (1)
● Phillis Wheatley Peters / An Hymn to the Evening (1-2)
● George Moses Horton / Liberty and Slavery (2-3)
● George Moses Horton / Early Affection (3-4)
● George Moses Horton / Troubled with the Itch and Rubbing with Sulphur (4)
● George Moses Horton / Imploring to Be Resigned at Death (4-5)
● George Moses Horton / George Moses Horton, Myself (5-6)
● Joshua McCarter Simpson / Away to Canada [excerpt] (6-8)
● Joshua McCarter Simpson / To the White People of America (8-9)
● James Monroe Whitfield / How Long? [excerpt] (9-13]
● James Monroe Whitfield / The Misanthropist [excerpt] (13-16)
● Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / Bury Me in a Free Land (16-17)
• Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / To the Union Savers of Cleveland (17-18)
• Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / from "Moses: A Story of the Nile" [excerpt] (19-20)
• Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / "Sir, We Would See Jesus" (20-21)
• Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / Learning to Read (21-22)
• Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / Songs for the People (22-23)
● James Madison Bell / from "A Poem Entitled the Day and the War" [excerpt] (23-25)
• James Madison Bell / from "An Anniversary Poem Entitled the Progress of Liberty" [excerpt] (25-26)
● Charlotte L. Forten Grimké / Wordsworth (27)
● Alfred Islay Walden / Wish for an Overcoat (27-29)
● Alberry Alston Whitman / from "Not a Man, and Yet a Man" [excerpt] (30-32)
• Alberry Alston Whitman / from "Twasinta's Seminoles; or Rape of Florida" [excerpt] (33-35)
● Henrietta Cordelia Ray / Robert G. Shaw (35-36)
• Henrietta Cordelia Ray / Verses to My Heart's-Sister (36-37)
● George Marion McClellan / A September Night (38)
• George Marion McClellan / The Feet of Judas (38-39)
• George Marion McClellan / A January Dandelion (39)
● Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. / Frederick Douglass (40)
• Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. / Dr. Booker T. Washington to the National Negro Business League (41)
• Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. / The Don't-Care Negro (41-42)
• Josephine Delphine Henderson Heard / "They Are Coming?" (42-44)
● Daniel Webster Davis / I Can Trust (44)
• Daniel Webster Davis / Aunt Chloe's Lullaby (44-45)
● Mary Weston Fordham / Atlanta Exposition Ode (45-46)
● James Edwin Campbell / Ol' Doc' Hyar (47-48)
• James Edwin Campbell / Mors et Vita (48)
• James Edwin Campbell / De Cunjah Man (48-49)
• James Edwin Campbell / 'Sciplinin' Sister Brown (49-50)
● James David Corrothers / "De Black Cat Crossed His Luck" (51-52)
• James David Corrothers / Paul Laurence Dunbar (52-53)
• James David Corrothers / At the Closed Gate of Justice (53-54)
• James David Corrothers / An Indignation Dunner (54)
● James Weldon Johnson / Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing (55-56)
• James Weldon Johnson / O Black and Unknown Bards (56-57)
• James Weldon Johnson / The White Witch (57-58)
● Priscilla Jane Thompson / The Muse's Favor (59-60)
● Paul Laurence Dunbar / Sympathy (61)
• Paul Laurence Dunbar / An Ante-Bellum Sermon (61-63)
• Paul Laurence Dunbar / We Wear the Mask (64)
• Paul Laurence Dunbar / When Malindy Sings (64-66)
• Paul Laurence Dunbar / The Haunted Oak (66-67)
• Paul Laurence Dunbar / The Poet (68)
● Anne Spencer [Annie Bethel Scales Bannister] / Dunbar (68)
• Anne Spencer [Annie Bethel Scales Bannister] / White Things (68)
• Anne Spencer [Annie Bethel Scales Bannister] / Letter to My Sister (69)
● Claude McKay / The Harlem Dancer (69-70)
• Claude McKay / If We Must Die (70)
• Claude McKay / Flame-Heart (70-71)
• Claude McKay / The Tropics in New York (71)
• Claude McKay / Enslaved (71-72)
● Jean Toomer / Georgia Dusk [from "Cane"] (72-73)
• Jean Toomer / Her Lips Are Copper Wire [from "Cane"] (73)
● Langston Hughes / The Negro Speaks of Rivers (73-74)
• Langston Hughes / Jazzonia (74)
• Langston Hughes / I, Too (74-75)
• Langston Hughes / Bound No'th Blues (75)
• Langston Hughes / Mother to Son (76)
● Countee Cullen / Yet Do I Marvel [from "Color"] (76-77)
• Countee Cullen / To John Keats, Poet, at Springtime [from "Color"] (77-78)
• Countee Cullen / From the Dark Tower [from "Copper Sun"] (78)

Alphabetical List of Titles (79-80)
Alphabetical List of First Lines (81-82)
[Back matter: Dover Thrift Editions (4 pp.)]

About the anthology

• Includes 71 selections from 25 poets (8 of them women)
• "In the nineteenth century, abolitionist and African-American periodicals printed thousands of poems by black men and women on such topics as bondage and freedom, hatred and discrimination, racial identity and racial solidarity, along with dialect verse that mythologized the Southern past. Early in the twentieth century, black poets celebrated race consciousness in propagandistic and protest poetry, while World War I helped engender the outpouring of African-American creativity known as the 'Harlem Renaissance.'
"The present volume spans this wealth of material, ranging from the religious and moral verse of Phillis Wheatley Peters (ca. 1753-1784) to the twentiet-century sensibilities of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Also here are works by George Moses Horton, Frances Wellen Watkins Harper, Alberry Alston Whitman, Henrietta Cordelia Ray, Daniel Webster Davis, Mary Weston Fordham, James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar and many others.
"Attractive and inexpensive, this carefully chosen collection offers unparalleled insight into the hearts and minds of African-Americans. It will be welcomed by students of the black experience in America and any lover of fine poetry.
"Original Dover (1997) publication. 74 poems reprinted from standard editions. Edited with an Introduction by Joan R. Sherman. 96pp. 5 3/16 x 8 ¼. Paperbound" (back cover).
• the "Introduction" by Joan Sherman is a "Note" about one page in length. She also provides brief headnotes with basic biographical information on each of the poets included in the anthology.
• Copyright acknowledgments for selections from Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Anne Spencer, and Jean Toomer. The other items are, presumably, out of copyright. The anthology does not indicate the date or source for each of the poems presented. Copyright notices for original publication are incorporated above; the poems by Langston Hughes are from his "Collected Poems" (1994) and those by Anne Spencer are from J. Lee Greene, "Time's Unfolding Garden: Anne Spencer's Life and Poetry" (1977).
• Editor's "Note": "In the nineteenth century, abolitionist and African-American periodicals printed thousands of poems by black men and women; in addition, over 150 African-Americans published one or more "volumes" of their poetry. The subject and techniques of black poetry shifted radically in the course of the century in response to political and social events and to changing fortunes of the race. Before the Civil War, from 1830 to 1860, African-Americans wrote the finest militant race-protest poetry of the century. During Reconstruction (1866-1877), the poets responded to uncertainties about racial identity and the need for racial solidarity with sober, genteel verse. The poems of this decade either ignored race altogether or aggrandized noble black men and women for the race to emulate and white readers to welcome as responsible citizens into the larger society. In the century's last two decades, when African-Americans faced crippling discrimination, racial hostility and terrorism, their poetry became even more conservative, inspirational, descriptive, sentimental and, influenced by Booker T. Washington, accommodationist; and black poetry adhered to culturally acceptable 'white' themes, techniques and ethical attitudes. From 1895 onward African-Americans who wrote dialect verse which nostalgically portrayed characters and folkways of a mythologized Southern past, charming verse that remained popular, fashionable and profitable for black poets well into the twentieth century.
"Early in the new century, many black poets continued to avoid racial themes; rather, they sought 'universality' and fine cratsmanship to gain approval of white audiences. Others, however, moved by the race-proud writings of W. E. B. DuBois, celebrated race consciousness in propagandistic and protest poetry or in verse that embraced 'low' black folk culture and music—spirituals, jazz, ballads and blues. World War I and its aftermath engendered the outpouring of African-American creativity known as the 'New Negro Renaissance' or the 'Harlem Renais//sance' because its center was Harlem in New York City. Many events shaped the new literature, art and music: millions of blacks emigrated from the South to the cities of the North and confronted urban problems; African-Americans who served in the armed forces and encountered equality overseas changed, as Alain Locke noted, into the 'new Negro' who defiantly insisted on his rights; Marcus Garvey's black nationalism inspired thousands in the early 1920s; and such periodicals as "The Crisis", "The Liberator", "The Messenger" and "Opportunity" welcomed poetry, fiction and essays that championed race pride and the beauty of blackness. This 'Renaissance' of African-American culture flourished in the years 1917-1928 and ended with the Great Depression" (iii-iv).
• Sherman's introductory "Note" suggests the importance of historical context and conjuncture for African American poetry (and literature, more generally). She identifies four "periods" in the timespan covered by the anthology, punctuated by two wars and the Great Depression at the end: (1) the antebellum era (to 1860); the Civil War; (2) the Reconstruction era (1866-77); (3) the post-Reconstruction retrenchment (1877-1914); the Great War; (4) the New Negro Renaissance (1917-28); the Great Depression. The first of these periods is ill defined: Sherman mentions a thirty-year span (1830-60), but includes Phillis Wheatley (d. 1784) in this era. We might carve out a "Revolutionary and Early National" era (1776-1830) and an "Antebellum" era (1830-60).

Reviews and notices of anthology

• n/a

Cited in

not in Kinnamon 1997
• Indexed in "The Columbia Granger's Index to African-American Poetry" (1999)

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