Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen

About Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen, probably born May 30, 1903, in Louisville (Kentucky) or New York, or even Baltimore (Maryland), sources diverge, and died in New York on January 9, 1946, was an African-American poet and writer. In 1922, he was admitted to New York University from where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1925. He continued his studies at Harvard University where, in 1926, he successfully obtained his Master of Arts in English literature. Cullen won several poetry competitions from an early age. At De Witt Clinton High School, which he attended, he contributed to the school newspaper and was a member of the Arista Honor Society. As a student he published poetry in the prominent of the black community magazines: The Crisis, under the direction of W.E.B. Du Bois, and in Opportunity from the National Urban League. Cullen has received awards from both publications. In those years he won several prizes for his poem Ballad of the brown girl and has also published his poems in others notorious magazines like Harper's, Century Magazine and Poetry Magazine. His popularity increased and he quickly became one of the best-known authors of the Harlem Renaissance or the New African-American Renaissance.
In 1925, he published his first poetry collection Color from where one of the poems, Simon the Cyrenian Speaks, uses the Gospel passage from Matthew chapter 27, verse 32, to suggest an analogy between African Americans and Simon, the man who was forced to carry the cross of Christ on his back. Another poem, Incident, describes the experience of an eight-year-old child horrified by racism. In 1928, he married Yolande Du Bois, the daughter of W.E.B. Du Bois. The couple divorced two years later. In the years that followed, Cullen wrote more poetry, prose, and a drama. In 1935 he published The Medea and Some Other Poems. From this collection emerges a poem Any Human to Another which deals with the human condition and the question of race and equality. He was the author of a single novel, One Way to Heaven (1931), and a popular work of children's and youth literature, The Lost Zoo (1940).
In 1940, he married Ida Mae Robertson, who remained with him until his death and created the Countee Cullen Foundation. With her activism and help, in 1951, the branch of the New York Public Library on 135th Street, located in Harlem, became the Countee Cullen Library.
On January 9, 1946, Cullen died. After his death, Cullen was considered the most honored African American author of his time. A collection of his best work has been compiled with the title On These I Stand. Countee Cullen rests in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

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