Frank Marshall Davies (1905-1987) was a prominent African American poet and journalist in the 1930s and 1940s. Although not as familiar a name as his contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Gwendoline Brooks and Langston Hughes, Davis was a significant figure during the Depression and the Second World War. He wrote and published four collections of poetry in the 1930s and 1940s. "Black Man's Verse" (1935), "I Am the American Negro" (1937), "Through Sepia Eyes" (1938), and "47th Street: Poems" (1948). Davis turned his back on a sustained literary career by moving to Hawaii in 1948. There he cut himself off from the busy world of Chicago writers and virtually disappeared from literary history, until interest in his work was revived in the 1960s Black Arts Movement, which hailed him as a pioneer of Black poetry and established him as a member of its canon. Because of his early self-removal from the literary limelight, Davis' life and work have been shrouded in mystery. His autobiography offers us a chance to rediscover this poet and writer and stands as an example of Black autobiography, similar in form, style and message to those of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright.
In addition to his writing achievements, Davis was an editor for several African American newspapers in the 1930s; the Chicago "Evening Bulletin", the Chicago "Whip", the Chicago "Star" and the Atlanta "World". In the early 1940s he began teaching what he believed to be the first history of jazz course at the Abraham Lincoln School in Chicago, and in 1945 he began broadcasting his own radio jazz show, "Bronzeville Brevities" on WJJD in Chicago. Active in the civil rights movement, Davis served as vice chairman of the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee from 1944 to 1947 and was a member of the national board of the Civil Rights Congress from 1947 to 1948. His autobiography chronicles the unravelling of Davis' negative self-image and suggest how he was able to construct a healthy, self-assured life. The common thread connecting the disparate events of Davis' life is the blues. By rooting itself in a blues sensibility, his life story is one of triumph over economic hardship and racial discrimination. He captures what it was like to grow up black and poor, struggling towards both economic and emotional self-sufficiency.
Frank Marshall Davis (1905 1987) published four poetry volumes: Black Man s Verse, I Am the American Negro, Through Sepia Eyes, and 47th Street: Poems. John Edgar Tidwell is associate professor of English at the University of Kansas. He has also edited Black Moods: Collected Poems by Frank Marshall Davis."
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