The Black Christ & Other Poems

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Author: Cullen, Countee (1903-1946)

Year: 1929

Publisher: Harper & Brothers Publishers

Place: New York


111 pages with frontispiece and other illustrations by Charles Cullen. Small octavo (7 3/4" x 5 1/2") bound in original publisher's Quarter black back strip ove blue boards with labels to spine and cover in original pictorial jacket. First edition.

The frontispiece of Countee Cullen's 1929 The Black Christ & Other Poems features in its center a nude black male haring by his neck from a long, jagged tree limb. Drawn in black-and-white by art-deco illustrator Charles Cullen, the figure's hands are fastened behind his back, and his feet are tied at the ankles. Rising behind the lynched body are sunbursts and a white cloud that ascends into the torso, shoulders, and bowed head of a second man, this one adorned with a crown of thorns. The image depicts the central argument put forth by "The Black Christ," that the corporal text of terror against black Americans should be read alongside the crucifixion of a "white" Jesus of Nazareth. But Charles Cullen's drawing also anticipates the vexing ambiguities that emerge in the verses b Countee Cullen that follow it. The frontispiece raises the question of how poetic invention will align these two sufferers depicted as radicalize opposites of spiritual and material reality. Do the figures in the illustration represent two different individuals with distinct cultural histories, or are they dual aspects of a single man? The frontispiece intimates a connection between racial transcendence and divine immanence that invites further questions about the redemptive qualities of an early 20th-century "passion play" set in the Jim Crow South. Exactly what kind of redemption will be championed through the Christian martyrdom of a black lynched body and the unmerited suffering of blacks left behind?


Corners bumped, spine ends rubbed, some sunning to boards. Jacket separated at hinges, spine ends chipped with one inch loss to heal, corners chipped, edge wear with tears and chips, one inch loss along back heal edge else a very good copy in a poor jacket.

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