Sterling A. Brown
Poet Laureate - Professor - Author - Critic
"The Dean of American Negro Poets"
The Federation of Friends of the DC Public Library System with the Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA), during the American Library Association 1997 Mid-Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, have designated The Founders Library at Howard University a Literary Landmark in tribute to the life and writings of Sterling A. Brown. There are twenty-six FOLUSA Literary Landmark designations scattered throughout the United States. This marks the first time that the FOLUSA has designated a Literary Landmark in the nation's capital.
The ceremony was held on 14 February in the Browsing Room of The Founders Library. It featured remarks by the presidents of the sponsoring organizations, dramatic reading of Brown's poetry, and musical selections. (Program.) The participation of Howard University President, H. Patrick Swygert, along with other University officers---Dr. Antoine Garibaldi, the University Provost, and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Mr. Harry G. Robinson III---gave even greater meaning to the event. It demonstrated that Howard's libraries and research centers are central to the University's teaching, research and service programs.
This Web page, a collaborative effort of The Founders Library, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and the English department at Howard University, is being developed as a resourceful site and gateway to information on the life and work of professor Sterling Brown. It will include a continually updated bibliography (a representative listing is featured below), essays, poems, graphic materials, and hot links to related WWW resources. The Manuscripts Division in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center maintains the Sterling A. Brown Papers.
Researched and Compiled by Imogene Zachery
Associate Librarian, The Founders Library
Allen Brown (1901-1989), author, critic, professor, Poet Laureate
for Washington, DC, and "the Dean of American Poets,"
was born on Howard University's campus at the site where Cook
Hall Dormitory now stands. He was educated in the in the District
of Columbia Public Schools and received his Bachelor's degree
from Williams College (Williamstown, MA), in 1922 with honors as
a Phi Beta Kappa. Professor Brown entered graduate school and
received his Master's degree from Harvard University in 1923. He
taught at Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia; Fisk
University, Nashville, Tennessee; and Lincoln University in
Missouri. He was a visiting lecturer at Atlanta University, New
York University and Vassar College. Sterling Brown joined the
Howard University faculty in 1929 and remained associated with
Howard for almost sixty years.
Professor Brown devoted his life to the development of an authentic black folk literature. He was one of the first scholars to identify folklore as a vital component of the black aesthetic and to recognize its validity as a form of artistic expression. He worked to legitimatize this genre in several ways. As a critic, Mr. Brown exposed the shortcomings of white literature that stereotyped blacks and demonstrated why black authors are best suited to describe the Negro experience. As a poet, he mined the rich vein of black Southern culture, replacing primitive or sentimental caricatures with authentic folk heroes drawn from Afro-American sources. As a teacher, Brown encouraged self-confidence among his students, urging them to find their own literary voices and to educate themselves to be an audience worthy of receiving the special gifts of black literature. Among his students were actor/playwright Ossie Davis, political activist Stokley Carmichael, and the Nobel prize winning novelist, Toni Morrison.
Overall, Brown's influence in the field of Afro-American literature has been so great that scholar Darwin T. Turner told Ebony Magazine: "I discovered that all trails led, at some point to Sterling Brown. His Negro Caravan was the anthology of Afro-American. His unpublished study of Afro-American theater was the major work in the field. His study of images of Afro-Americans in American literature was a pioneer work. His essays on folk literature and folklore were preeminent. He was not always the best critic but Brown was the literary historian who wrote the Bible for the study of Afro-American literature." Brown's dedication to his field was unflinching, but it was not until he was in his late sixties that the author received wide spread public acclaim. In 1968 the Black Consciousness movement revived an interest in his work. ("Sterling Brown." Contemporary Authors. CD-ROM. Detroit: Gale, 1996.)
During the 1970s, after years of neglect, Brown's career took an upturn. In 1979 the City Council of the District of Columbia declared his birthday, May 1, Sterling A. Brown Day. "I've been rediscovered, reinstituted, regenerated and recovered," he said in a 1979 interview with The Washington Post. He published The Collected Poems of Sterling Brown in 1980 which won the Lenore Marshall Prize in the early 1980s as the best book of poetry published that year. In 1984 he was named Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia, a position which, The Washington Post wrote, "[he had] held informally for most of his 83 years."
In 1991, following a University-wide contest to name the Howard University Libraries' new Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC), the name "Sterling" was selected to commemorate the unique contributions and far-reaching impact of Sterling Allen Brown.
This selected bibliography is a compilation of some of Professor Brown's well known works. It is intended to cover a broad perspective of his writings. Call numbers are included for books located in The Founders Library and Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) at Howard University.
WORKS BY STERLING A.
The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown. Ed. Michael S. Harper. New York: Harper & Row, 1980. (Founders PS 3503 R833 R17/MSRC M811.5 B815c)
The Last Ride of Wild Bill and Eleven Narrative Poems. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1975. (Founders PS 3503 R833 L3)
Southern Road. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1932. (MSRC M811.5 B815)
"Athletics and the Arts." The Integration of the Negro in American Society. Ed. E. Franklin Frazier. Washington, D.C: Howard University Press, 1951. 117-147. (MSRC H M378HM H83so)
"The Blues as Folk Poetry." Folk-Say: A Regional Miscellany. Ed. Benjamin A. Botkin. Vol. 1. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1930. (MSRC M398 F71)
The Book of Negro Folklore. Ed. Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes. New York: Dodd Mead, 1958. (MRSC M398 H87B)
Negro Caravan: Writings by American Negroes. Ed. Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses Lee. New York: Citadel Press, 1941, 1987. (Founders PS 508 N3 B75/MSRC 810.8 B81n2)
"Negro in the American Theatre." Oxford Companion to the Theatre. Ed. Phyllis Hartnoll. New York: Oxford Press, 1951. 565-572.
"A Son's Return: 'Oh, Didn't He Ramble'." Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro- American Literature, Art, and Scholarship. Ed. John Hope Franklin and Michael S. Harper. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979.
"A Century of Negro Portraiture in American Literature." Massachusetts Review 7.4 (1966): 63-96.
The Negro in American Fiction. Negro Poetry and Drama. New York: Arno Press, 1969. (Founders PS 153 N5 B678/ MSRC M810.9 B81a2)
Negro Poetry and Drama and the Negro in American Fiction. New York: Atheneum, 1969. (Founders PS 153 N5 B68)
"Negro Character as Seen by White Authors." Journal of Negro Education 2 (1933): 179-203.
"Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads, and Worksongs." Phylon 14. 4 (1953): 45-61.
"On Dialect Usage." The Slave's Narrative. Ed. Charles T. Davis and Henry Louis Gates. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985. 3-22.
"Our Literary Audience." Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism fromthe Harlem Renaissance to the Present. Ed. Angelyn Mitchell. Durham: Duke University Press, 1994. 69-78.
Outline for the Study of the Poetry of American Negroes. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1931.
"Seventy-Five Years of the Negro in Literature." Jackson Bulletin 2 (1953): 26-30.
WORKS ABOUT STERLING BROWN
Current Biography Yearbook 1989. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1990. (Founders Ref. CT 100 C8)
Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vols. 48, 51, 63. Detroit: Gale (Founders Ref. PS 153 D542)
"Obituary." New York Times 17 Jan. 1989, early city ed.: B11.
"Obituary." Washington Post 16 Jan. 1989: B6.
"Sterling Allen Brown." Editorial. Washington Post 19 Jan. 1989: A26.
Trescott, Jacqueline. "Appreciation: Sterling Browns Enlightened Example." Washington Post 16 Jan. 1989: D1+.
Allen, Samuel. "Sterling Brown: Poems to Endure." Massachusetts Review 24.3 (1983): 649-57.
Gabbin, Joanne V. Sterling Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985. (Founders PS 3503 R833 Z66)
Smith, Gary. "The Literary Ballads of Sterling A. Brown." CLA Journal 33.4 (1989): 393-409.
Stepto, Robert. "Sterling Brown : Outsider in the Harlem Renaissance." The Harlem Renaissance Revaluation. New York: Garland, 1989.
Tidwell, John Edgar. "Sterling A. Brown Tribute." Black American Literature Forum 23.1 (1989): 89-112.
Wright, John S. "The New Poet and the Nachal Man: Sterling A. Brown's Folk Odyssey." Black American Forum 23.1 (1989): 95-105.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND SOURCES
Black Literature Criticism, Vol. 1; Black Writers; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 1, 23, 26, 59.
Sterling Brown Papers. Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC). Howard University.
Consult indexes and abstracts such as Abstracts of English Studies; Dissertation Abstracts International, Humanities Index, and MLA International Bibliography to locate additional information.