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Encyclopedia > Sterling Allen Brown

Sterling Allen Brown (May 1, 1901January 13, 1989) was an African American teacher, and writer on folklore, of poetry and of literary criticism. He was mainly interested in black culture from the Southern United States. May 1 is the 121st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (122nd in leap years). ... 1901 (MCMI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... January 13 is the 13th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... An African American (also Afro-American, Black American, or simply black), is a member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Africa. ... Folklore is the body of verbal expressive culture, including tales, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs current among a particular population, comprising the oral tradition of that culture, subculture, or group. ... Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain by Emperor Gaozong. ... Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. ... Southern United StatesThe states shown in dark red are usually included in the South, while all or portions of the striped states may or may not be considered part of the Southern United States. ...


Early life

He was born on the campus of Howard University in Washington D.C., where his father (a former slave and prominent minister) was a professor. He was educated at Dunbar High School and graduated as the top student for which he received a scholarship to attend Williams College. Graduating from Williams Phi Betta Kappa in 1922, he continued his studies at Harvard University, receiving an MA a year later. Howard University is an historically black university in Washington, D.C. Notable alumni include Toni Morrison, Thurgood Marshall, Ossie Davis, Debbie Allen, and Phylicia Rashad. ... Aerial photo (looking NW) of the Washington Monument and the White House in Washington, DC. Washington, D.C., officially the District of Columbia (also known as D.C.; Washington; the Nations Capital; the District; and, historically, the Federal City) is the capital city and administrative district of the United... Dunbar High School is a Washington, D.C. public school, and was the first high school for black children. ... A scholarship is an award of access to an institution or a financial aid award for an individual (a scholar) for the purposes of furthering their education. ... Williams College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. ... Harvard University campus (old map) Harvard University (incorporated as The President and Fellows of Harvard College) is an accredited private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ... A Master of Arts is a postgraduate academic masters degree awarded by universities in North America and the United Kingdom (excluding the ancient universities of Scotland and Oxbridge. ...

The same year, he became an English teacher at Virginia Seminary and College, a position he would hold for the next three years. In 1927 he married Daisy Turnbull.

Academic Career

Brown began his teaching career at a number of universities, including Lincoln University and Fisk University, before returning to Howard in 1929 as a teacher where he remained for forty years. During his time there he taught and wrote about African-American literature and folklore and was a pioneer in the appreciation of this genre

Brown was known for introducing his students to concepts then popular in Jazz, which-along with blues, spirituals, and other forms of music with an extensive history among black Americans-formed an integral component of his poetry.

In addition to his career at Howard University Brown also taught at Vassar College, New York University (NYU) and Atlanta University during semesters when he was not teaching at Howard. Closeup of the Vassar Main Building Vassar College is a highly selective, private, coeducational liberal arts college situated in Poughkeepsie, New York. ... New York University (NYU) is a major research university in New York City. ... Clark Atlanta University is a private, undergraduate and graduate institution educational institution in Atlanta, Georgia. ...

Some of his notable students include Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Kwame Nkrumah, Ossie Davis and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka). Carmichael amidst a demonstration near the United States Capitol protesting the House of Representatives action denying Rep. ... Kwame Nkrumah (September 21, 1909 – April 27, 1972) was an African anti-colonial leader, founder and first president of the modern Ghanaian state and one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the 20th century. ... Ossie Davis in The Green Pastures, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1951 Ossie Davis (December 18, 1917 – February 4, 2005) was an African-American actor, film director and activist. ... Amiri Baraka Amiri Baraka (born October 7, 1934) is a U.S. writer. ...

In 1969 he retired from his faculty position at Harvard and returned to his professional career as a poet.

Literary Career

In 1932 he published his first book of poetry, Southern Road. It was a collection of poetry with rural themes and treated the simple lives of poor, black, country folk with poignancy and dignity. It also used authentic dialect and structures. Despite the success of this book he struggled to find a publisher for the followup, No Hiding Place (book).

His poetic work was influenced in content, form and cadence by the African American music including work songs, blues and jazz. Like Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and other black writers of the period, his work often dealt with race and class in the United States. Brown is usually considered part of the Harlem Renaissance artistic tradition, although he spent the majority of his life in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C., where he was the city's poet laureate until his death from leukemia at the age of 88. A work song is a typically acoustic rhythmic song sung by persons who are working in likely mundane conditions. ... The blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the full twelve note chromatic scale plus the microtonal intervals and a characteristic eight and twelve-bar chord progression. ... Jazz is an original American musical art form originating around the start of the 20th century in New Orleans. ... Jean Toomer (December 26, 1894–March 30, 1967) was a poet, novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. ... Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891–January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist and author of the Harlem Renaissance, best known for the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. ... Langston Hughes, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1936 Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and newspaper columnist. ... The Harlem Renaissance was a flowering of art, literature and music in the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s led by the African American community based in Harlem, New York City. ... Brookland is the name of 2 places in the United States: Brookland, Arkansas Brookland, Washington, DC Brookland, Kent is a village in Kent, England. ... Leukemia or leukaemia (see spelling differences) is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal proliferation of blood cells, usually white blood cells (leukocytes). ...


  • Southern Road, 1932 (original poetry)
  • Negro Poetry (literary criticism)
  • Drama and The Negro in American Fiction (criticism)
  • The Negro Caravan, 1941, co-editor with Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses Lee(anthology of African-American literature)
  • The Last Ride of Wild Bill (poetry)
  • The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, 1980, Michael S. Harper, ed.


  Results from FactBites:
Sterling A. Brown's Life and Career (2465 words)
Brown and others shared the view that "art is a handmaiden to social policy." Although a staunch believer in the promises of the Constitution, Brown was aware that such provisions as the infamous "three-fifths compromise" began a lengthy list of stumbling blocks to achieving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Brown, Sterling Allen (1 May 1901-13 Jan. 1989), professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen.
Brown's three years at Virginia Seminary represent much more than the beginning of his teaching career, for it was there that he began to immerse himself in the folkways of rural fl people, absorbing their stories, music, and idioms.
  More results at FactBites »



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