African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital AnthologyMain MenuFull Text Collection: Books Published by African American Poets, 1870-1927Author Profiles: Bios and Full Text CollectionsThe Beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance: Overview and Timeline of Key EventsBlack Poetry Before the Harlem Renaissance: Overview and TimelineAfrican American Poetry: A Story Of MagazinesAfrican American Poetry: Anthologies of the 1920sAreas of Interest: Topics and ThemesAbout This Site: Origins and a Mission StatementFurther Reading / Works CitedAmardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e1
Gwendolyn B. Bennett Cover, "Opportunity" July 1926
1media/Gwendolyn B Bennett Woodcut Cover Opportunity Magazine July 1926_thumb.png2022-08-15T14:56:11-04:00Amardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e12131Gwendolyn B. Bennett Wood Cut. Cover, "Opportunity" July 1926plain2022-08-15T14:56:11-04:00Amardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e1
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12022-08-03T16:42:52-04:00Gwendolyn B. Bennett: Poems and Author Profile6plain2023-05-12T13:14:12-04:00Gwendolyn B. Bennett (1902-1981) was born in Texas, but raised in Washington DC as well as Pennsylvania and New York City. She attended Brooklyn Girls' High School in New York between 1918 and 1921; Yolande Du Bois (W.E.B. Du Bois' daughter) was her peer. Bennett began publishing poetry as an undergraduate at the Pratt Institute. She published several poems in The Crisis and Opportunity before graduating in 1924, including most notably her 1924 poem "To Usward." Bennett's main training was as a visual artist; she taught design, watercolor painting, and crafts at Howard University after graduating from Pratt in 1924; she also studied fine art in France. Starting in 1926, Bennett was hired as an assistant to the editor at Opportunity, and her graphic designs were often used in both that magazine and The Crisis. Bennett also published short stories in Fire!! (1926) and Ebony & Topaz (1927), and had a regular column on the arts in Harlem in Opportunity between 1926 and 1928.
After Bennett married Dr. Albert Joseph Jackson in 1927, the couple briefly moved to Florida, and Bennett's creative output slowed. She did later return to New York City and joined the Harlem Artists Guild. Unfortunately, though her poems were widely anthologized at the time, Bennett never published a complete book collecting poetry and short fiction. However, in 2018, a book called Heroine of the Harlem Renaissance: Gwendolyn Bennett's Selected Writings was published by Pennsylvania State University Press.
Opportunity was most influential in African American literary circles for its literary contests, which ran between 1924-1927, and helped to strengthen the reputations of important writers like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Sterling Brown, Arna Bontemps, and Countee Cullen. The contests were also accompanied by award dinners, which were often quite glamorous, and featured many writers, publishers, and patrons.
In 1928, Charles Johnson was appointed as President of Fisk University, a Historically Black university. At that time, the editorship shifted, as did the priorities of the journal. After 1928, the magazine was more narrowly focused on sociology and race, and the literary emphasis diminished.
Here, we have been in the process of digitizing the poems published in the 1920s in Opportunity based on facsimile copies available at Archive.org; those are collected below. We are also developing an Index of poems published in Opportunity during these years; that Index can be found here.