Monday, May 30, 2022

May 30: Countee Cullen, American poet and writer


Countee Cullen (1903-1946) was a Black American poet, novelist, children's writer, and playwright, and part of the Harlem Renaissance. Rare for a Black man in his time, he graduated with a master's degree in English from Harvard (after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from NYU). He was briefly married to the daughter of civil rights icon W.E.B. Du Bois; she filed for divorce when a few months after their wedding, he wrote her a letter confessing his love for men. Ten years later he married another woman and lived with her until his death some six years later. Overshadowed today by his colleague Langston Hughes, Cullen's work nevertheless expresses the experience of Black people in his day; one of his better-known poems, "Heritage," repeats its first line as a refrain: "What is Africa to me?" as he places his imagined homeland against his life as a "Christian" and an American. Also notable is his, "Yet Do I Marvel."


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