The photo is from The Ann Arbor Poetry Forum 1996-1997 photo by Roy Lewis.

Sterling Allen Brown(1901-1989)
Sterling Brown is one of the unsung heroes of African-American poetry. Born in 1901, died in 1989, Brown spent most of his life as an English professor at Howard University, where he taught a wide range of courses from Shakespeare to World Literature. While generations of students—Amiri Baraka and Gwendolyn Brooks being two of the most famous—have paid tribute to his influential teaching, his poetry was largely neglected during his lifetime. Brown grew up squarely in the black middle class of Washington, DC, but his interest in the lives of common folk took him from the lecture hall to the barrel house and the barbershop. While influenced by such American poetic masters as Robert Frost and Edgar Lee Masters, Brown’s poems managed to synthesize traditional poetic forms with the dialect of working-class African-Americans.

The quote from Mark Patrick at At The Ann Arbor Poetry Forum 1996-1997.

The verses resonate with the music of the life he saw around him--the blues sung to lost loves, chants of saints praying to be in the number, tragic-comic cries in the face of hatred and injustice, and jubilant songs of endurance and perseverance. Sterling Brown's poetic genius lies in his subtle adaptation of blues, spirituals, work songs, and ballads into silver threads that dazzle his spoken verse.

The quote is from Smithsonian Folkways.

"In the beginning I never found poems in the American literary pantheon about the things I knew best. I decided that I would at least do my part and try to put some of those poems in there. At the time I was reading black American literature, mostly in anthologies. I didn't know about Sterling Brown. If I had, I would have taken a different approach...

"In the 60s the critical thing in discovering the work of people who had preceded me was going to the folk archives of the San Francisco Library and listening to a recording of Sterling Brown and Robert Hayden. Not only did I get a chance to follow that up by reading their poems in books and anthologies, but I also heard their voices. That transformed a lot of things for me. I realized there was a musicality, a certain kind of artistic rigor that I hadn't heard before."

The poet African American poet Michael Harper says at Brown University Library.

Biography & Links:1. Brief biography The Black College Magazine Online.

2. Biography at The Academy of American Poets.

3. Site with photo, biography, and bibliography of Brown at Howard University Library.

4. Introduction of Brown's life and writing at Lycos Web Guide.

5. Site, intended for teachers, but contains helpful discussions of Brown's themes, style, audience, and other issues at The Heath Anthology of American Literature in Georgetown University.

6. Sterling Brown bibliography at Paul P. Reuben Web Site.

Essays:1. Online essay called "Poets of the Harlem Renaissance and After" at The Academy of American Poets.

2. Two of Sterling Brown's own essays that relate to the blues:
"Blues, Ballads, and Social Songs."” Seventy-five Years of Freedom. Washington DC: Library of Congress P, 1940. 17-25.

"The Blues."” Phylon, XIII (Autumn 1952), 318-327

1. Ma Rainey the song
2. Frankie and Johnny the song
3. Southern Road the song
4. Strong Men the song
5. Tin Roof Blues the song