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

Joseph S. Cotter, Jr. Biographical Note in "Caroling Dusk" (1927)

At Thanksgiving time 1894 Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Negro poet, was a guest in my house in Louisville, Ky. Here for the first time in the South he read the Negro dialect poems that afterwards made him famous.

September 2nd, 1895, my son, the late Joseph S .Cotter , Jr., was born in the room in which these poems were read . He learned to read and write from his sister , Florence Olivia,who was two years older. Before he entered school at the age of six years he had read about thirty books — these included all the readers in the elementary schools 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 -8th grades and parts of the Bible.

Mrs.Maria F. Cotter, my wife, and I held both children back. We refused to allow them to bepromoted in several instances . Both were graduated from the Louisville Central High School under 16; Florence Olivia won first honor of her class and Joseph the second. He was graduated June 1911.  After a year and a half at Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn ., Florence Olivia wrote us that Joseph had tuberculosis and must leave school. He returned home and was put under a doctor. The 16th of the following December, Florence Olivia returned from Fisk with tuberculosis, and one year from that day she died. It was grieving over his sister's death that discovered to Joseph his poetic talent. He died February 3rd, 1919 , leaving his published poems , — The Band of Gideon and two other unpublished works --one of poems and one of one act plays.

--Joseph S. Cotter, Sr. 

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