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Color (1925) is a collection of poems by Countee Cullen. Published the same year Cullen entered Harvard to pursue a masters in English, Color was a brilliant debut by a poet who had already gained a reputation as a leading young artist of the Harlem Renaissance. Deeply personal and attuned to poetic tradition, Cullen’s verses capture the spirit of creative inquiry that defined a generation of writers, musicians, painters, and intellectuals while changing the course of American history itself.

“Over three centuries removed / From the scenes his fathers loved, / Spicy grove, cinnamon tree, / What is Africa to me?” In “Heritage,” Cullen investigates his relationship with the past as a black man raised in a nation his people were forced to build. His question bears a dual sense of genuine wonder and cynical doubt, and ultimately produces no easy answer. For Cullen could have just as easily asked “What is America to me?”, to which his poem “Incident” might respond: “I saw a Baltimorean / Keep looking straight at me. / […] / And so I smiled, but he poked out / His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’ / […] Of all the things that happened there / That’s all I can remember.” In these lines, a single memory serves to define an entire city; an entire childhood, even, is defined by the violent response of a white man consumed with hatred. Cullen’s relationship to place, whether Africa, America, or Baltimore, is inextricably linked to his experience of racial violence. With this knowledge, he navigates the spaces between these places, inhabiting a language and a poetic tradition thrust upon him at birth. For Cullen, poetry is as much a means of survival and self-invention as it is a form of art—without it, where would he be?

With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Countee Cullen’s Color is a classic of African American literature reimagined for modern readers.

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Dimensions8 × 5 in
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Date Published

August 10, 2021








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