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

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

"I was born in Nelson County, Ky., February 2nd, 1861, on a farm owned by my great grandfather, Daniel Stapp, a tanner. In 1829 he bought himself and a part of his master's farm. Later he bought his daughter, Lucinda, my mother's mother.

Martha, my mother, was born on a nearby farm owned by her English-Indian father, Fleming Vaughan. Prior to my birth she lived in Bardstown and was a servant at “My Old Kentucky Home.” She took me to Bardstown soon after my birth and brought me to Louisville in my fourth week, and here I have lived ever since. I attended a private school and could read before my fourth year. Conditions were such that my attendance at school was very irregular. I quit school in my eighth year, having completed the third grade, and did not return until my twenty-second year.

During this time I picked up rags in the streets and worked in tobacco factories and brick-yards. My nineteenth year found me a distiller in one of the largest distilleries in Kentucky. A turn of fortune made me a teamster. I hauled cotton and tobacco and made up my mind to enter the prize ring. Another turn of fortune put me into a Louisville public night school. Here I began in the third grade where I left off in my eighth year.

At the end of two school sessions of five months each I was promoted to the high school. I keep this diploma under lock and key, for it is the only one I have ever received.

The man who turned my attention from prize-fighting to night school and then to school teaching, and who discovered my knack for writing verses, was Dr. W. T. Peyton of Louisville. He was my greatest benefactor. My talent of whatever kind comes from Martha, my mother. She was poet, story-teller, dramatist and musician. My published works are: A Rhyming, Links of Friendship, Caleb, the Degenerate, a poetic drama, A White Song And A Black One and Negro Tales. My unpublished works are: Life's Dawn And Dusk, poems, Caesar
Driftwood and Other One Act Plays
and My Mother And Her Family.

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