Copper Sun

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Author: Cullen, Countee (1903-1946) inscribed

Year: 1927

Publisher: Harper & Brothers Publishers

Place: New York


xi+89 pages with decorations. Small octavo (7 3/4" x 5 1/4") bound in publisher's original quarter black cloth with spine label over marbled paper covered boards with titled label to cover. The book is illustrated throughout by Charles Cullen. Inscribed by the author. First printing, with "first edition" and "G-B" on copyright page.

American poet, a leading figure with Langston Hughes in the Harlem Renaissance. This 1920's artistic movement produced the first large body of work in the United States written by African Americans. However, Cullen considered poetry race-less, although his The Black Christ took a racial theme, lynching of a black youth for a crime he did not commit. Countee Cullen was very secretive about his life. According to different sources, he was born in Louisville, Kentucky or Baltimore, Maryland. Cullen was possibly abandoned by his mother, and reared by a woman named Mrs. Porter, who was probably his paternal grandmother. Cullen once said that he was born in New York City - perhaps he did not mean it literally. Porter brought young Countee to Harlem when he was nine. She died in 1918. At the age of 15, Cullen was adopted unofficially by the Reverend F.A. Cullen, minister of Salem M.E. Church, one of the largest congregations of Harlem. Later Reverend Cullen became the head of the Harlem chapter of NAACP. His real mother did not contact him until he became famous in the 1920s. As a schoolboy, Cullen won a citywide poetry contest and saw his winning stanzas widely reprinted. With the help of Reverend Cullen, he attended the prestigious De Witt Clinton High School in Manhattan. After graduating, he entered New York University, where his works attracted critical attention. Cullen's first collection of poems, Color (1925), was published in the same year he graduated from NYU. Written in a careful, traditional style, the work celebrated black beauty and deplored the effects of racism. The book included 'Heritage' and 'Incident', probably his most famous poems. Cullen's Color was a landmark of the Harlem Renaissance. The movement was centered in the cosmopolitan community of Harlem, in New York City. During the 1920's, a fresh generation of writers emerged, although few were Harlem-born. Among the leading figures were Alain Locke The New Negro (1925), James Weldon Johnson Black Manhattan (1930), Claude McKay Home to Harlem (1928), Langston Hughes The Weary Blues (1926), Zora Neale Hurston Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), Wallace Thurman Harlem: A Melodrama of Negro Life (1929), Jean Toomer Cane (1923), Arna Bontemps Black Thunder (1935), and of course Countee Cullen, a leading voice of the period. - The movement was accelerated by grants and scholarships and supported by such white writers as Carl Van Vechten. A brilliant student, Cullen graduated from New York University Phi Beta Kappa. He attended Harvard, earning his masters degree in 1926. He worked as assistant editor for Opportunity magazine, where his column, 'The Dark Tower,' increased his literary reputation. Cullen's poetry collections The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927) and Copper Sun (1927) explored similar themes as Color, but they were not so well received. Cullen's Guggenheim Fellowship of 1928 enabled him to study and write abroad. He married in April 1928 Nina Yolande DuBois, daughter of W.E.B. DuBois, the leading black intellectual. At that time Yolande was involved romantically with a popular band leader. Between the years 1928 and 1934, Cullen traveled back and forth between France and the United States. By 1929 Cullen had published four volumes of poetry. The title poem of The Black Christ and other Poems (1929) was criticized for the use of Christian religious imagery - Cullen compared the lynching of a black man to Christ's crucifixion. Cullen married Yolanda DuBois in 1928. The marriage was the social event of the decade, but the marriage did not fair well, and he divorced in 1930. It is widely said that Cullen was a homosexual, and his relationship with Harold Jackman's was a significant factor in the divorce. Jackman was a a teacher whom the writer Carl Van Vechten had used as model in his novel Nigger Heaven (1926). In 1940 Cullen married Ida Mae Robertson; they had known each other for ten years. As well as writing books himself, Cullen promoted the work of other black writers. But in the late 1920's Cullen's reputation as a poet waned. In 1932 appeared his only novel, One Way to Heaven, a social comedy of lower-class blacks and the bourgeoisie in New York City. From 1934 until the end of his life he taught English, French, and creative writing at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in the New York City. During this period he also wrote two works for young readers: The Lost Zoo (1940), poems about the animals who perished in the Flood, and My Lives and How I lost Them, an autobiography of his cat. In the last years of his life Cullen wrote mostly for the theater. With Arna Bontemps he adapted her novel, God Sends Sunday (1931), entitled St Louis Woman (1946, published in 1971) for the musical stage. Its score was composed by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, both white. The Broadway musical, set in poor black neighborhood in St. Louis, was criticized by black intellectuals for creating a negative image of black Americans. Cullen also translated the Greek tragedy Medea by Euripides, which was published in The Medea and some Poems (1935), with a collection of sonnets and short lyrics.


Inscribed on front end paper. Corners bumped and rubbed through, edge wear, stain to head edge, spine label chipped else a good to very good copy.

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