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Melvin Tolson – Harlem Renaissance Writer Who Reaches Out to Liberia
Melvin Bownorus Tolson is an African-American modernist poet, educator, columnist, and playwright whose work focuses on the African American experience and includes several poetic histories. He lived during the Harlem Renaissance, and although he was not a participant, his work reflects its influence.
Tolson’s years at Columbia University from 1931 to 1932 on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship placed him in Harlem at the end of the Harlem Renaissance, and thus he befriended many of the writers associated with it, especially Langston Hughes, and inspired the development of his poetry. took talent
Therefore, Tolson revisits the atmosphere of Harlem in the 1930s in many of his poems. Inspired by the achievements of people like Hughes who were around him, Tolson decided to contribute to the proud legacy of black writers.
His previous collection Meeting and Gallery reflecting the early influence of Walt Whitman, Edgar Lee Masters, and Langston Hughes, it emphasizes Tolson’s proletarian beliefs and optimistic spirit. This later became evident in his attention to themes of black dignity, such as in the development of multiracial diversity in America… These were to lead to the West African Republic of Liberia declaring him its poet laureate in 1947.
Melvin Tolson was born in 1900 in Moberly, Missouri, the son of a Methodist minister and an Afro-Greek mother who was a seamstress. Thus, he grew up in a Methodist Episcopal home with his father, who taught himself the classical languages. He moved around small midwestern towns with his parents between different churches in the Missouri and Iowa area before finally settling in the Kansas City area. He lived in the house of contradictions. His father, who had an eighth-grade education, doubted the value of a college education, but he still looked for a strong desire for knowledge in his son.
As a child, he loved to draw, but had to give it up because of his mother’s disapproval of a bohemian artist who wanted to take him with her to Paris. Therefore, he turned to poetry and found a suitable way for his creativity. At the age of 14, he published his first poem, “The Titanic,” in a local newspaper in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Then in Kansas City in 1911 he was elected poet of the senior class.
He graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City in 1919 and entered Fisk University, but transferred to Lincoln University that same year for financial reasons. There he met Ruth Southall and married her on January 29, 1922. Tolson graduated with honors in 1924, then moved to Marshall, Texas to study speech and English at Wiley College.
While at Wiley, Tolson developed a number of extracurricular activities such as coaching the junior varsity football team, leading the theater club, co-founding the Southern Black Intercollegiate Association for Dramatic and Speech Arts, and organizing a number of extracurricular activities. The Wiley Criminal Society, an award-winning debating club that gained national fame by breaking the color bar across the country, met with unprecedented success, as on their 1935 tour they competed against the University of Southern California, where Oprah Winfrey – produced film Great discussions, based on, was released on December 25, 2007 (although in the film they are arguing about Harvard, not USC). This film was directed by Denzel Washington.
Tolson mentored many students at Wiley and encouraged them to not only be well-rounded, but to always stand up for their rights, even though this was a very controversial position in the US South in the early and mid-20th century.
From 1930, Tolson began to write poetry. He took a leave of absence to pursue a master’s degree in comparative literature at Columbia University in 1930-31, but did not complete it until 1940, writing a thesis on the Harlem Renaissance and writing his first book of poetry. Harlem Portrait Gallery, poems published by them Art Quarterly, Contemporary Quarterly and Modern month.
In 1941, Black symphonyoften considered his greatest work, it won first place in the 1939 National Poetry Contest. Atlantic Monthly. Black symphony compares and contrasts African-American and European-American history.
In 1944, Tolson published his first collection of poems. Meeting Americawhich includes Black symphony published at the request of the editor Atlantic Monthly while moving to Dodd Mead. This book went through three editions in 1944.
“Washington Tribune”. hired Tolson to write a weekly column, Cabbage and caviarin which he attacked the class claims and lack of racial pride of the black middle class after he left his teaching position at Wiley in the late 1940s.
Tolson began teaching at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma in 1947. He also worked there as a playwright and director of the Dust Bowl Theater. One of his students there, Nathan Hare, a pioneer in black studies, later became the founding publisher of the publication. Black scientist
Another major work of his is this Libretto for the Republic of Liberia (1953). Written in the form of an epic poem, it is perhaps the most demanding work of the poet. It was commissioned the same year and completed in 1953 for Liberia’s centennial in 1956.
Eight-part Libretto for the Republic of Liberia shows the intersection of several disparate threads – modernist stylistics embedded in an English fictional story about an African political moment by an African-American artist. Although it has a Negro theme, it can be said that this poem is also about the world of men. And this topic is not only confirmed, it is embodied in a rich and complicated language, and it is realized according to the poetic imagination. It indicates its meaning through a symbolic indirectness. But it shows Tolson’s growing poetic ambitions by being so long, complex and suggestive in places and full of surrealist dreams in others. However, it remains an unread poem by a Negro
That year, Liberia declared Tolson its poet laureate, who was later awarded the Liberian Knighthood of the Order of the Star of Africa. The 1950s and 90s brought him more and more success. He was awarded poetry prizes and honorary doctorates. He then took a position at Tuskegee Institute. He received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters. He also entered local politics and was elected mayor of Langston for four consecutive terms from 1954 to 1960.
In 1965 Tolson’s final work appeared in his lifetime, a long poem Harlem Gallery, was published. This last poem consists of several sections, each beginning with a letter of the Greek alphabet, and focuses on exploring the lives of African Americans. It is altogether a drastic departure from his earlier works.
In 1965, Tolson was appointed to a two-year fellowship at Tuskegee Institute, where he was the Avalon Poet Laureate. But he did not live long enough to end his term here. Because, He died in the middle of his appointment after cancer surgery in Dallas, Texas, on August 29, 1966. He was buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
His poems were published posthumously in New York in 1979 Harlem Portrait Gallery in a mix of different styles, as well as free verse. A racially diverse and culturally rich community represented in the Harlem Portrait Gallery may be based or intended for Marshall, Texas. His poems were characterized by their allegorical, complex, modernist style and long poetic sequence.
A man of impressive intellect, Tolson produced poetry that was “funny, witty, satirical, witty, crude, cruel, bitter, and funny,” as Carl Shapiro said of the Harlem Gallery. Langston Hughes described him as “not overbearing. The students respect and love him. The kids from the cotton fields like him. The cowboys understand him. . . . He’s a great speaker.” In New York, Tolson met important figures such as the literary critic and editor W.F.Calverton, who described him as a remarkable writer who achieves his best effects not by overwriting, but by doing in a single line or verse what most of his contemporaries failed to do. records. record in pages or volumes.”
Tolson’s fearless approach to controversy and defense of his religious and social views not only drew fire, but an invitation to publish in Pittsburgh Courier.
Raise Every Voice and Sing (1899)
God’s Trombones: Seven (1927)
Selected poems (1936)
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