Cullen, Countee

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Cullen, Countee

(koun`tē`), 1903–46, American poet, b. New York City, grad. New York Univ. 1925, M.A. Harvard, 1926. A major writer of the Harlem Renaissance—a flowering of black artistic and literary talent in the 1920s—Cullen wrote poetry inspired by American black life. His technique was conventional, modeled on that of John Keats, and his mood passed from racial pride and optimism in the 1920s to sadness and disappointment in the 1930s. Among his volumes of verse are Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927), The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927), and On These I Stand (1947).


See biographies by A. R. Chucard (1984) and C. Molesworth (2012); bibliography by M. Penny (1971).

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Cullen, Countée (b. Countée L. Porter)

(1903–46) poet; born in New York City. Raised by foster parents, he studied at New York University (B.A. 1925) and Harvard (M.A. 1926). Having achieved some recognition for his poetry while still a student, as an African-American he was regarded as contributing to the so-called Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, but his particular style—as seen in such works as Color (1925) and Copper Sun (1927)—was more derived from European traditions than from African-American idioms and has not survived his era. Awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1928, he spent most of the next six years in Paris. On returning to New York City he taught at a junior high school (1934–46); he also edited a magazine, Opportunity. In addition to his poetry, he wrote a novel (One Way to Heaven, 1932) and stories for children.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.