NEGRO POETRY As early as the year 176o Jupiter Hammon, a slave belonging to a Mr. Lloyd of Queens village, Long Island, N.Y., published a poem 88 lines in length, entitled An Evening Thought, Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries. Hammon published several other poems, all of them religious. However, it is with Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-84), a young slave, that American Negro poetry properly begins.
Between Phillis Wheatley and Paul Laurence Dunbar there were about 3o Negroes who published poetry, the publications ranging in size from pamphlets to books of from 1 oo to 300 pages. These writers must be considered more in the light of what they attempted than of what they accomplished. A number of them showed marked talent and feeling, but barely a half dozen demonstrated more than mediocre mastery of technique. Such were George Horton (1797-1880), Frances E. Harper (1825-1911), Charles Reason (1818– ), James Madison Bell (1826-1902) and Albery Whitman (1851-1901).
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) (q.v.) was the first Ameri can Negro poet to show real poetic talent. Contemporary Negro poets were: James Edwin Campbell, Daniel Webster Davis, George M. McClellan, J. Mord Allen, James D. Corrothers (1869-1917), William H. A. Moore and Joseph S. Cotter, sr.
The decade after the death of Dunbar was fallow, but William Stanley Braithwaite (b. 1878) achieved recognition as a poet, critic and anthologist. His work, however, is not in subject matter or form related to race. In general, his poems are mystic in tone.
Immediately after the entry of the United States into the World War (1917) there emerged a group of poets who almost completely discarded dialect and the traditional material of Negro poetry, including pathos and humour. The distinguishing notes
of their poetry were disillusionment, protest and challenge. In this group were Claude McKay, Fenton Johnson, Joseph Cotter, jr., Georgia Douglas Johnson, Roscoe Jamison, Lucien Watkins and James Weldon Johnson. It was in Claude McKay (b. 1890) that this period of protest found its most powerful voice.
A half-dozen years after the beginning of the period of protest, American Negro poetry began discarding propaganda for propa ganda's sake, and essayed a more purely artistic use of racial art material and cultural background. Two new poets arose in this latest period. They were Countee Cullen (b. 1903) and Langston Hughes (b. 1902). Cullen is a poet of lyrical power and beauty. He writes only in the well approved forms of literary English, but many of his best poems contain a racial note of deep poignancy. In 1925 he published his first volume, Color; this was followed in 1927 by The Ballad of the Brown Girl and Copper Sun. Hughes is more the folk poet in the selection of subject-matter and forms. Much of his material is taken from the humbler strata of life, and he has made effective use of the form of the Blues (see Music, p. 219). He is the author of The Weary Blues (1926) and Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927). In this period James Weldon Johnson published God's Trombones —Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927), founded on the old time Negro plantation sermons. The newer Negro poets writing distinctive verse are: Jean Toomer (1894– ), Anne Spencer, Arna Bontemps, Angelina Grimke (188o– ), Lewis Alexander, Jessie Fauset, Sterling Brown, Helene Johnson and Waring Cuney.