African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Charles Frederick White: Author Page

Charles Frederick White (1876-1955) was born in Tennessee, and raised at least partly in Springfield, Illinois. Both of his parents were enslaved. (Note: In most of his published writing, his name is given as "Charles Fred. White.") 

According to Peter Valine, he was a graduate of the Williston Seminary in Easthampton, Massachusetts, as well as the University of Pennsylvania Law School: 

Charles White was a member of the Williston Seminary class of 1909.  He was a patriot who loved his country but he was not always loved by his fellow countrymen.  He was an accomplished poet whose lyrics provide important insights into the nature of American society at the turn of the century.  He was a veteran of the Spanish-American War who served with a combat regiment in Cuba.  He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, who enjoyed both financial and political success in the city of Philadelphia.  (source)

He also briefly attended Phillips Exeter Academy. 

In 1899, White enlisted in the Army, and served in combat in Cuba in the Spanish-American War. He rose to the rank of Corporal and served as a Chaplain. He wrote about this experience in a number of memorable poems in his only collection of poetry, Plea of the Negro Soldier: And a Hundred Other Poems. Several of his poems dealing with his time in the military reflect pride in serving as part of an African American regiment in the conflict. However, some of his poems also reflect his frustration as a Black soldier subject to institutionalized racism (see "Plea of the Negro Soldier"). 

After 1908, White relocated to Philadelphia, where he attended Law School. In 1912, he published a Who's Who in Philadelphia, which gives short biographies of prominent Black Philadelphians, as well as a guide to Black churches, hospitals, and schools in the city at that time. That volume also contains a few additional poems; it is available on HathiTrust here. After 1912, White does not appear to have published any further poetry or prose. 

As of June 2023, there does not appear to be a Wikipedia page dedicated to White. 

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