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

Poems Published in The Brownies' Book, 1920-1921

The Brownies' Book was a magazine published by W.E.B. Du Bois, Augustus Granville Dill, and Jessie Fauset in 1920-1921. It was first conceived of as a kind of side-project for The Crisis, which had a very successful "Children's Number" in October 1919. 

Over the course of its brief run, the magazine published groundbreaking short stories, poetry, and essays that helped to invent a new category -- African American children's literature. 

In terms of African American poetry, the magazine was significant in part because of the way it drew in established names, including many poets featured elsewhere on this site -- Jessie Fauset, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Lucian B. Watkins, Effie Lee Newsome (Mary Effie Lee), and Carrie Williams Clifford all published poetry for children in The Brownies' Book

The Brownies' Book actually published Langston Hughes' first poetry as an adult -- in the January 1921 issue. Here are there are two short poems, several months before the poem that started his adult career, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." 

It's worth looking closely at the poetry itself, especially the poetry relating directly to race. There is a simplicity and forthrightness in the way writers for The Brownies' Book aimed to reach young Black readers that powerfully anticipates the concerns of the mature and adult-oriented writing of the Harlem Renaissance that emerged immediately after the magazine ceased publication. 

Page images of The Brownies' Book can be found at the Library of Congress website.
There are transcriptions of the magazine at a website produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

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