This Day in Black History: May 1, 1901

African-American English professor and literary critic Sterling A. Brown was born.

Posted: 05/01/2013 08:00 AM EDT
Sterling A. Brown

Professor, poet and literary critic Sterling A. Brown was born on May 1, 1901, in Washington, D.C. Brown is best known for his use of Black dialect and his work in educating and inspiring young poets during his tenure at Howard University. He was honored by his hometown in 1984 when he was named the District of Columbia’s first poet laureate.

Before beginning his career as a professor, Brown earned his bachelor's degree from Williams College in 1922 and completed a master’s degree from Harvard University in 1923. He then taught at Lincoln University and Fisk University before settling at Howard University in 1929. Brown taught at Howard for 40 years, during which he taught poets Amiri Baraka and Gwendolyn Brooks.

In 1932, Brown published his first book of poetry, entitled Southern Road. Brown’s work was colored by fieldwork he conducted in the rural South, documenting the folk songs and traditions of Black Southern life. His other works include Negro Poetry and Drama (1937), The Negro in American Fiction (1937) and The Negro Caravan (1941).

Brown died on Jan. 13, 1989.

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(Photo: Public Domain)

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