Runagate Runagate Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Hayden tended to shy away from the martyrology practiced by some militant African American writers who presented highly varnished depictions of the heroes of black history. In “Runagate Runagate,” however, he did paint a glowing portrait of Harriet Tubman, an African American abolitionist who smuggled slaves from the South to the free North before the Civil War.

All ethnic and racial groups have enshrined ideal members who have accomplished great things. It became the special province of radical black writers of the 1960’s to supply such champions for their race, heroes who, these writers correctly claimed, had been neglected by the dominant culture. These militant writers often dismissed Hayden for the lack of revolutionary flourishes in his verse, and they also looked in vain through his works for idealized depictions of African American historical figures. When Hayden did present such figures, as in his allusions to Cinque in “Middle Passage,” the portrait was neither touched up—the atrocities practiced by Cinque’s followers are not glossed over—nor direct (Cinque, for example, is described only through the words of his opponent). Without compromising his commitment to indirection or objectivity, in “Runagate Runagate,” Hayden does give a larger-than-life, though not overly flattering, picture of a valiant woman.

Again Hayden plaits together a number of voices, often hostile ones, to give a rounded picture of both Tubman...

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Runagate Runagate Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Robert Hayden. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005.

Conniff, Brian. “Robert Hayden and the Rise of the African American Poetic Sequence.” African American Review 33, no. 3 (Fall, 1999): 487-506.

Davis, Arthur P. “Robert Hayden.” In From the Dark Tower: Afro-American Writers, 1900 to 1960. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982.

Davis, Charles T. “Robert Hayden’s Use of History.” In Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Donald B. Gibson. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973.

Fetrow, Fred M. “Portraits and Personae: Characterization in the Poetry of Robert Hayden.” In Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960, edited by R. Baxter Miller. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.

Fetrow, Fred M. Robert Hayden. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

Gikandi, Simon. “Race and the Idea of the Aesthetic.” Michigan Quarterly Review 40, no. 2 (Spring, 2001): 318-350.

Glaysher, Frederick, ed. Collected Prose: Robert Hayden. Foreword by William Meredith. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984.

Goldstein, Laurence, and Robert Chrisman, eds. Robert Hayden: Essays on the Poetry. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Su, Adrienne. “The Poetry of Robert Hayden.” Library Cavalcade 52, no. 2 (October, 1999): 8-11.

Williams, Pontheolla T. Robert Hayden: A Critical Analysis of His Poetry. Foreword by Blyden Jackson. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.