African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital Anthology

Arna Bontemps, Biographical Note, "Caroling Dusk" (1927)

ARNA BONTEMPS explains that he was just tall enough to see above window sills when the first trolley car came down Lee Street in Alexandria, La. His mother, Marie Pembroke, had been born in this same town but his father had come out of Marksville, a smaller town of that state. Though exceedingly young and very frail, Marie Pembroke had taught school until her marriage, while her husband, Paul Bontemps, was a brick mason, the son and grandson of brick masons.

With Arna Bontemps in his third year and a second child, a girl, just past one, the family left the South for San Francisco. However, they stopped in Los Angeles to visit relatives and have never moved further. Here the boy's mother died some nine years later and here his father is still living. Here also he received his early education in a rather irregular attendance of a number of schools. He went through the schools rapidly enough and in spite of being out several years received a college degree in his twentieth year.

In the year following that he lost his illusions with reference to a musical career and returned to an original intention to eat bread by the sweat of teaching school. It is to be remembered that he went to college first with the purpose of taking a medical course but it took him only a day or two to decide better.

He lives in New York City and is now twenty-four and married.