by Countée Porter

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In "Heritage," what problems does Countee Cullen face as he tries to reconcile African heritage with African American identity?

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Countee Cullen faces several obstacles as he tries to reconcile his African ancestry with his American identity.

The first is isolation and distance. As the opening line of the poem asks, "What is Africa to me"? He doesn't have an answer to this, and must find or construct one by himself, rather than knowing it as part of his culture.

Second, there is the question of time, and the related issue of knowledge. As the first stanza of the poem says, it has been over 300 years since his fathers lived in Africa. As a result, he doesn't really know Africa, and so his mind and poem are full of images of Africa, and he doesn't even know if they fit, or how well they fit.

Third, religion. Cullen is Christian. The Africa of his fathers was not. His beliefs, and his spirit, divide him from his African heritage.


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