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James D. Corrothers: Author Page
James D. Corrothers (1869-1917) was born in Michigan, and lived much of his adult life in Chicago. He was educated at Northwestern University, and in his youth did a fair amount of journalistic writing in Chicago newspapers. He became known for his humorous sketches of African American life, and published a volume along those lines called The Black Cat Club in 1903. The use of AAVE in this book was controversial, and later Corrothers indicated that he regretted publishing it. Much of Corrothers' later poetry used standard written English rather than AAVE. That said, Corrothers remained an enthusiastic supporter and friend of the best-known "dialect" poet of his era, Paul Laurence Dunbar. In his memoir, Corrothers claimed to have introduced Dunbar's poetry to William Dean Howells, a white novelist and literary critic who later championed Dunbar's work and helped him gain a cross-over audience.
Corrothers was also a pastor in different churches. For some years, in the late 1890s, Corrothers was a minister with the A.M.E. Church, though Bruce D. Dickson, Jr. indicates he was forced to leave his post after a scandal of some sort in 1903. Corrothrs later became a Baptist and then a Presbytarian, and served as a pastor in Pennsylvania in the latter years of his life. Corrothers also published a memoir late in his life In Spite of the Handicap.
James D. Corrothers published a fair amount of poetry during his life, much of it of quite high quality, with a strong civil rights orientation (a stand out poem might be "At the Closed Gates of Justice"). He published a number of poems in the 1900s in The Voice of the Negro. And several of his poems in the 1910s were published in The Crisis. However, he never published a book-length collection of his work. Seven of his poems were included in James Weldon Johnson's 1922 anthology, and there is a substantial account of his poems in Robert Kerlin's 1923 Negro Poets and their Poems.
Bruce D. Dickson, Jr., "James D. Corrothers" entry in Oxford Concise Companion to African American Literature.
Robert Kerlin, Negro Poets and their Poems (1923), Chapter 2.2.
James D. Corrothers, "The Road to the Bow" (1913)
Editor's Note: the image printed next to the poem is of Tancred August, President of Haiti.
Ever and ever and anon,
After the black storm, the eternal, beautous bow!
Brother, to rosy-painted mists that arch beyond,
Blithely I go.
My brown men laurled and my lyre
Twined with immortal ivy for one little rippling song;
My “House of Golden Leaves” they praised and “passionate fire”--
But, friend, the way is long!
Onward and onward, up! away!
Though Fear all his banners in my face,
And my feet stumble, lo! The Orphean day!
Forward by God’s grace!
These signs are still before me: “Fear”
“Danger”, “Unprecedented” and I hear black “No”
Still thundering and “Churl.” Good Friend,
I rest me here–
Then to the glittering bow!
Loometh and cometh Hate in wrath,
Mailed Wrong, swart Servitutde and Shame, with bitter rue,
Nathless a Negro poet’s feet must tread the path
The winged god knew.
Thus, my true Brother, dream-led, I
Forefend the anathema, following the span.
I hold my head as proudly high
As any man.
Published in The Crisis, January 1913
Edited by Christian Farrior