Sterling Brown Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Sterling A. Brown produced several studies of African American literature: Outline for the Study of the Poetry of American Negroes (1931), The Negro in American Fiction (1937), and Negro Poetry and Drama(1937). With Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses Lee, he edited The Negro Caravan (1941). Brown also published numerous scholarly pieces in leading journals on subjects relating to African American culture and literature.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Sterling A. Brown is considered an important transitional figure between the Harlem Renaissance era and the period immediately following the Depression. Brown’s fame is based not only on his poetry but also on his achievements as a critic, folklorist, scholar, and university teacher. As an acknowledged authority on African American culture, Brown served on many committees and boards and participated in numerous scholarly and research activities. Among these were the Carnegie-Myrdal Study, the American Folklore Society, the Institute of Jazz Studies, the editorial board of The Crisis, the Federal Writers’ Project, and the Committee on Negro Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies.

Brown’s poems and critical essays have been anthologized widely, and he was a memorable reader of his own poetry, especially on such recordings as The Anthology of Negro Poets (Folkways) and A Hand’s on the Gate. He cowrote an article with Rayford Logan on the American Negro for Encyclopaedia Britannica. Brown was a Guggenheim Fellow (1937-1938) and a Julius Rosenwald Fellow (1942). He was an eminent faculty member at Howard University in Washington, D.C., from 1929 to 1969. The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown was selected for the National Poetry Series in 1979. Brown won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1981, the Langston Hughes Award in 1982, and the Frost Medal, awarded by the Poetry Society of America, in 1987.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Davis, Arthur P. “Sterling Brown.” In From the Dark Tower: Afro-American Writers, 1900-1960. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982. A comprehensive study by the dean of African American critics, who knew Brown personally and taught with him at Howard University on African American writers during the 1950’s. The essays on individual writers are supplemented by ample introductory material, and there is also an extensive bibliography, listed by author.

Ekate, Genevieve. “Sterling Brown: A Living Legend.” New Directions: The Howard University Magazine 1 (Winter, 1974): 5-11. A tribute to the life and works of Brown in a magazine published by the university where he taught for forty years. This article analyzes Brown’s literary influence on younger poets and assesses his importance in the African American literary canon.

Sanders, Mark A. Afro-Modernist Aesthetics and the Poetry of Sterling A. Brown. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999. Criticism and interpretation of Brown and his poetry in the context of twentieth century African American literature and intellectual life.

Thelwell, Ekwueme Michael. “The Professor and the Activists: A Memoir of Sterling Brown.” Massachusetts Review 40, no. 4 (Winter, 1999/2000): 617-638. A fond memoir of Brown written by one of his students at Howard University. Offers a glimpse into Brown’s personality, political bent, and place as a black intellectual during the tumultuous 1960’s.

Tidwell, John Edgar, and Steven C. Tracy, eds. After Winter: The Art and Life of Sterling Brown. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. A collection of critical essays on Brown’s works, as well as interviews with those who knew him. Also contains a bibliography and discography.

Wagner, Jean. “Sterling Brown.” In Black Poets of the United States, from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Langston Hughes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973. A comprehensive and insightful study of the poetry of Brown, covering the subjects, themes, and nuances of his poetry. Wagner’s writing on Brown is warm and appreciative.