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

W.E.B. Du Bois: Author Page

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) probably needs no introduction. He is one of the towering figures in African American literature and activism from the first half of the twentieth century. His most influential early work might be The Souls of Black Folk (1903), though he was the author of more than twenty works of nonfiction, innumerable journalistic essays, and five published novels. He was the editor of The Crisis between 1910 and 1934, during which time he oversaw the publication of poetry by many important figures. 

Du Bois also edited two earlier magazines, Moon and The Horizon, between 1900-1910. In a 1907 issue of The Horizon, he published a memorable poem on race, labor, and American industrialization called "Song of the Smoke." He also published "The Song of America" in Horizon in February 1908 (U-Mass Du Bois papers version here), "Ave Maria" (March 1908; link here),and "El Dorado" (June 1908; U-Mass Du Bois papers version here).

Du Bois also published several poems in The Crisis between 1911 and 1920. As with his earlier poems, several of the poems have something of the quality of religious sermons rather than lyrical verse, but they are worth a look in their own right. 

After "Unrest" (1920) Du Bois did not publish much of his own poetry in The Crisis or other venues for many years. He did begin to publish poetry again later in life -- in the 1950s -- in venues like Masses and Mainstream ("Suez") and Presence Africaine ("Ghana Calls"). These poems are presumably still in copyright, and there has been no attempt to reproduce them here. 

A large quantity of Du Bois materials have been made available digitally by the Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts, including many unpublished poetry manuscripts and typescripts. The digital collection specifically focused on poetry can be found here


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