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About this poet

Sterling Brown was born in Washington, D.C., on May 1, 1901. He was educated at Dunbar High School and received a bachelor's degree from Williams College. He studied the work of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, but was more interested in the works of Amy Lowell, Edgar Lee Masters, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg. In 1923, he earned a master's degree from Harvard University and was employed as a teacher at the Virginia Seminary and College in Lynchburg until 1926. Three years later, Brown began teaching at Howard University and in 1932 his first book, Southern Road, was published.

His poetry was influenced by jazz, the blues, work songs and spirituals and, like Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, and other black poets of the period, his writing expresses his concerns about race in America. Southern Road was well received by critics and Brown became part of the artistic tradition of the Harlem Renaissance, but with the arrival of the Depression, Brown could not find a publisher for his second book of verse. He turned to writing essays and focused on his career as a teacher at Howard, where he taught until his retirement in 1969. He finally published his second book of poetry, The Last Ride of Wild Bill, in 1975. Brown is known for his frank, unsentimental portraits of black people and their experiences, and the incorporation of African American folklore and contemporary idiom into his verse. He died in 1989 in Takoma Park, Maryland.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Southern Road (1932)
The Collected Poems of Sterling Brown (1980)
The Last Ride of Wild Bill and Eleven Narrative Poems (1975)

Prose

Negro Poetry and Drama (1937)
Outline for the Study of Poetry of American Negroes (1931)
The Negro in American Fiction (1937)

Southern Road

Sterling A. Brown, 1901 - 1989
Swing dat hammer--hunh--
Steady, bo';
Swing dat hammer--hunh--
Steady, bo';
Ain't no rush, bebby,
Long ways to go.

Burner tore his--hunh--
Black heart away;
Burner tore his--hunh--
Black heart away;
Got me life, bebby,
An' a day.

Gal's on Fifth Street--hunh--
Son done gone;
Gal's on Fifth Street--hunh--
Son done gone;
Wife's in de ward, bebby,
Babe's not bo'n.

My ole man died--hunh--
Cussin' me;
My ole man died--hunh--
Cussin' me;
Ole lady rocks, bebby,
Huh misery.

Doubleshackled--hunh--
Guard behin';
Doubleshackled--hunh--
Guard behin';
Ball an' chain, bebby,
On my min'.

White man tells me--hunh--
Damn yo' soul;
White man tells me--hunh--
Damn yo' soul;
Got no need, bebby,
To be tole.

Chain gang nevah--hunh--
Let me go;
Chain gang nevah--hunh--
Let me go;
Po' los' boy, bebby,
Evahmo' . . .

From The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown by Sterling A. Brown. Copyright © 1980 Sterling A. Brown. Used by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

From The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown by Sterling A. Brown. Copyright © 1980 Sterling A. Brown. Used by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Sterling A. Brown

Sterling A. Brown

Sterling Brown was born in Washington, D.C., in 1901. He was educated

by this poet

poem
A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin', no need for doin',
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.

Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary's, Big Mary's, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man's roots,
Keep him soaked
poem

I

Slim Greer went to heaven;
  St. Peter said, "Slim,
You been a right good boy."
  An' he winked at him.

     "You been travelin' rascal
       In yo'day.
     You kin roam once mo';
       Den you come to stay.

"Put dese wings on yo' shoulders,
  An' save yo' feet."
Slim grin, and he speak up