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

Prize-Winning Poems

These are poems that won one of the poetry prize competitions that were regularly offered by magazines like "Opportunity" and "The Crisis" through the mid-1920s.

The first Opportunity poetry prize was conducted in 1925; prizes were announced at the Opportunity dinner in May 1925, and prize-winning poems were printed in the May, June, and July issues. A similar pattern was repeated in 1926, with prize-winning poems typically printed in May, June, and July. In 1927, the prize dinner was a little late, and the announcements as well as the poems were printed only in June and July. 

The Opportunity prize was cancelled after 1927. Note: not all poems that won prizes were actually printed in the magazine. 

For its part, The Crisis printed prize poems in the fall. In 1925, they printed the winners in October, November, and December). In 1926 and 1927, The Crisis printed prize-winning poems in the December issues. 

In 1925, Countee Cullen won the First Prize for two poems ("If Love Be Staunch" and "Lament"), and his poems were printed in the October 1925 issue. Frank Horne won Second Prize for "Letters Found Near a Suicide" (printed November 1925), and Langston Hughes won Third Prize (poems printed in December 1925). 

In the December 1926 Crisis, first prize went to Arna Bontemps for "Nocturne at Bethesda," Second Prize went to Countee Cullen, for "Thoughts in a Zoo," Honorable Mention went to Effie Lee Newsom for "The Bird in the Cage," and Blanche Taylor Dickinson, for "That Hill." 

In the December 1927 Crisis, first prize went to Mae V. Cowdery for "Longings," Second Prize went to Edward Silvera for "Song to a Dark Girl," Third Prize to Ethel M. Caution for "To...," and Honorable Mention to Marguerite A. Lowe, for "My Wish." 

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