A Literary Tribute to
Sterling A. Brown
Laureate - Professor - Author - Critic
"The Dean of American Negro Poets"
Federation of Friends of the DC Public Library System
with the Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA), during
the American Library Association 1997 Mid-Winter Meeting
in Washington, DC, have designated The Founders
Library at Howard University a Literary Landmark
in tribute to the life and writings of Sterling
A. Brown. There are twenty-six FOLUSA Literary
Landmark designations scattered throughout the United
States. This marks the first time that the FOLUSA
has designated a Literary Landmark in the nation's
The ceremony was
held on 14 February in the Browsing Room of The Founders
Library. It featured remarks by the presidents of
the sponsoring organizations, dramatic reading of
Brown's poetry, and musical selections. The participation
of Howard University President, H. Patrick Swygert,
along with other University officers---Dr. Antoine
Garibaldi, the University Provost and Chief Academic
Officer, and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Mr. Harry G. Robinson III---gave even greater meaning
to the event. It demonstrated that Howard's libraries
and research centers are central to the University's
teaching, research and service programs.
a collaborative effort of The Founders Library, the
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and the English
department at Howard University, highlights the life
and work of professor Sterling Brown. The Manuscripts
Division in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
maintains the Sterling A. Brown Papers.
Allen Brown (1901-1989), author, critic, professor,
Poet Laureate for Washington, DC, and "the Dean
of American Poets," was born on Howard University's
campus at the site where Cook Hall Dormitory now stands.
He was educated in the District of Columbia Public Schools
and received his Bachelor's degree from Williams College
(Williamstown, MA) in 1922 with honors as a Phi Beta
Kappa. Brown entered graduate school and received his
Master's degree from Harvard University in 1923. He
taught at Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia;
Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee; and Lincoln University
in Missouri. He was a visiting lecturer at Atlanta University,
New York University and Vassar College. Sterling Brown
joined the Howard University faculty in 1929 and remained
associated with Howard for almost sixty years.
devoted his life to the development of an authentic
black folk literature. He was one of the first scholars
to identify folklore as a vital component of the black
aesthetic and to recognize its validity as a form of
artistic expression. He worked to legitimatize this
genre in several ways. As a critic, Brown exposed the
shortcomings of white literature that stereotyped blacks
and demonstrated why black authors are best suited to
describe the Negro experience. As a poet, he mined the
rich vein of black Southern culture, replacing primitive
or sentimental caricatures with authentic folk heroes
drawn from Afro-American sources. As a teacher, Brown
encouraged self-confidence among his students, urging
them to find their own literary voices and to educate
themselves to be an audience worthy of receiving the
special gifts of black literature. Among his students
were actor/playwright Ossie Davis, political activist
Stokley Carmichael, and the Nobel prize winning novelist,
influence in the field of Afro-American literature has
been so great that scholar Darwin T. Turner told Ebony
Magazine: "I discovered that all trails led,
at some point to Sterling Brown. His Negro Caravan
was the anthology of Afro-American. His unpublished
study of Afro-American theater was the major work in
the field. His study of images of Afro-Americans in
American literature was a pioneer work. His essays on
folk literature and folklore were preeminent. He was
not always the best critic
but Brown was the literary
historian who wrote the Bible for the study of Afro-American
literature." Brown's dedication to his field was
unflinching, but it was not until he was in his late
sixties that the author received wide spread public
acclaim. In 1968 the Black Consciousness movement revived
an interest in his work. ("Sterling Brown."
Contemporary Authors. CD-ROM. Detroit: Gale,
During the 1970s,
after years of neglect, Brown's career took an upturn.
In 1979 the City Council of the District of Columbia
declared his birthday, May 1, Sterling A. Brown
Day. "I've been rediscovered, reinstituted,
regenerated and recovered," he said in a 1979 interview
with The Washington Post. He published The
Collected Poems of Sterling Brown in 1980 which
won the Lenore Marshall Prize in the early 1980s as
the best book of poetry published that year. In 1984
he was named Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia,
a position which, The Washington Post wrote,
"[he had] held informally for most of his
In 1991, following
a University-wide contest to name the Howard University
Libraries' Online Public
Access Catalog (OPAC), the name "Sterling"
was selected to commemorate the unique contributions
and far-reaching impact of Sterling Allen Brown.
This selected bibliography
is a compilation of some of Professor Brown's well known
works. It is intended to cover a broad perspective of
his writings. Call numbers are included for books located
in The Founders Library and
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) at Howard
BY STERLING A. BROWN
The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown. Ed.
Michael S. Harper. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.
(Founders PS 3503 R833 R17/MSRC M811.5 B815c)
The Last Ride of Wild Bill and Eleven Narrative
Poems. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1975. (Founders
PS 3503 R833 L3)
Southern Road. New York: Harcourt, Brace and
Co., 1932. (MSRC M811.5 B815)
"Athletics and the Arts." The Integration
of the Negro in American Society. Ed. E. Franklin
Frazier. Washington, D.C: Howard University Press,
1951. 117-147. (MSRC H M378HM H83so)
"The Blues as Folk Poetry." Folk-Say:
A Regional Miscellany. Ed. Benjamin A. Botkin. Vol.
1. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1930. (MSRC
The Book of Negro Folklore. Ed. Arna Bontemps
and Langston Hughes. New York: Dodd Mead, 1958. (MRSC
Negro Caravan: Writings by American Negroes. Ed.
Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses Lee. New York: Citadel Press,
1941, 1987. (Founders PS 508 N3 B75/MSRC 810.8 B81n2)
"Negro in the American Theatre." Oxford
Companion to the Theatre. Ed. Phyllis Hartnoll.
New York: Oxford Press, 1951. 565-572.
"A Son's Return: 'Oh, Didn't He Ramble'."
Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro- American Literature,
Art, and Scholarship. Ed. John Hope Franklin and
Michael S. Harper. Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
"A Century of Negro Portraiture in American Literature."
Massachusetts Review 7.4 (1966): 63-96.
The Negro in American Fiction. Negro Poetry and
Drama. New York: Arno Press, 1969. (Founders PS
153 N5 B678/ MSRC M810.9 B81a2)
Negro Poetry and Drama and the Negro in American
Fiction. New York: Atheneum, 1969. (Founders PS
153 N5 B68)
"Negro Character as Seen by White Authors."
Journal of Negro Education 2 (1933): 179-203.
"Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars,
Ballads, and Worksongs." Phylon 14. 4 (1953):
"On Dialect Usage." The Slave's Narrative.
Ed. Charles T. Davis and Henry Louis Gates. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1985. 3-22.
"Our Literary Audience." Within the Circle:
An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism
fromthe Harlem Renaissance to the Present. Ed. Angelyn
Mitchell. Durham: Duke University Press, 1994. 69-78.
Outline for the Study of the Poetry of American
Negroes. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1931.
"Seventy-Five Years of the Negro in Literature."
Jackson Bulletin 2 (1953): 26-30.
Current Biography Yearbook 1989. New
York: H.W. Wilson, 1990. (Founders Ref. CT 100 C8)
Dictionary of Literary Biography 48, 51,
63. Detroit: Gale (Founders Ref. PS 153 D542)
"Obituary." New York Times 17 Jan.
1989, early city ed.: B11.
"Obituary." Washington Post 16 Jan.
"Sterling Allen Brown." Editorial. Washington
Post 19 Jan. 1989: A26.
Trescott, Jacqueline. "Appreciation: Sterling
Browns Enlightened Example." Washington
Post 16 Jan. 1989: D1+.
Allen, Samuel. "Sterling Brown: Poems to Endure."
Massachusetts Review 24.3 (1983): 649-57.
Gabbin, Joanne V. Sterling Brown: Building the Black
Aesthetic Tradition. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood
Press, 1985. (Founders PS 3503 R833 Z66)
Smith, Gary. "The Literary Ballads of Sterling
A. Brown." CLA Journal 33.4 (1989): 393-409.
Stepto, Robert. "Sterling Brown : Outsider in
the Harlem Renaissance." The Harlem Renaissance
Revaluation. New York: Garland, 1989.
Tidwell, John Edgar. "Sterling A. Brown Tribute."
Black American Literature Forum 23.1 (1989): 89-112.
Wright, John S. "The New Poet and the Nachal Man:
Sterling A. Brown's Folk Odyssey." Black American
Forum 23.1 (1989): 95-105.
INFORMATION AND SOURCES
Black Literature Criticism, Vol. 1; Black
Writers; Contemporary Authors 85-88; Contemporary
Literary Criticism 1, 23, 26, 59.
Sterling Brown Papers. Manuscript Division,
Research Center (MSRC). Howard University.
and abstracts such as Abstracts of English Studies;
Dissertation Abstracts International,
Humanities Index, and MLA International
Bibliography to locate additional information.
and Compiled by Imogene Zachery