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

James Edward McCall, Biographical Note in "Caroling Dusk" (1927)

James Edward McCall was born September 2, 1880 at Montgomery, Ala., and received his early education in the public schools of that city. Graduating from the Alabama State Normal in 1900 he entered Howard University as a medical student the same year, but some months later was forced to abandon his medical career, following an attack of typhoid fever leading to total blindness. Undaunted by this misfortune, he at once set out to develop his literary talent. During this period he read and studied much through the eyes of others, also writing many poems, a number of which were published in Southern dailies, the New York World and other periodicals. The Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser styled him "The Blind Tom of Literature.” One of his poems, “Meditation," has been compared to Bryant's “Thanatopsis."

Despite his handicap, McCall determined to acquire a college education. Accompanied by his sister, he entered Albion College (Michigan) in 1905, where he was graduated two years later, being the only sightless student in the college. Returning to his natal city, he took up journalistic work, for some years being employed as a special writer for one of the local white dailies, also contributing to other periodicals, and ultimately publishing at Montgomery a successful race weekly--The Emancipator. This blind writer is ably assisted in his journalistic work by his wife, to whom he was married in 1914. He and his family moved to Detroit in 1920. He is city editor and editorial writer for the Detroit Independent, his editorials in this publication having been widely read and re-published throughout the country during the past two years.

From Caroling Dusk, 1927