The New Black Poetry

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Dudley Randall, highly respected by several generations of African American writers, occupies a central position in the development of the “New Black Poetry.” As the founder of Broadside Press, Randall contributed an indispensable impetus to the Black Arts movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. His poetry, written over a period of more than six decades, exhibits a wide range of influences, techniques, and subject matters.

Randall started writing poetry seriously when he was in high school, where he learned prosody from his teacher and from Henry Wells’s Poetic Imagery Illustrated from Elizabethan Literature (1924). At age thirteen, he submitted a sonnet to a poetry contest run by the Detroit Free Press and won the first prize. Thanks to his father, a minister active in the political campaigns of African Americans, Randall spent his formative years in an environment associated with intellectual and literary figures such as W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson. Well read in the writings of black authors of the time, Randall was thus informed by the Harlem Renaissance, which had just come to an end when he was graduated from high school during the Great Depression. His childhood experience is captured in autobiographical poems such as “Vacant Lot” and “Laughter in the Slums.”

After graduation, Randall became a foundry worker at Ford Motor Company. The poem “George,” a tribute to a coworker and lifelong...

(The entire section is 423 words.)