Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Louis Salomon, Gordon Wilson, Arndt Stickles, Finley Grise

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


According to Matthew Arnold an open mind is one of the chief essentials for true literary criticism. One is impressed by the truthfulness of this statement when he seeks to evaluate Negro poetry.

The term, Negro poetry, has several interpretations. In its most general sense, the one in which it is used in this paper, it means poetry written by Negroes on any subject. In a more restricted sense it refers to poetry that contains allusions, rhythms, sentiments and idioms more or less peculiar to the Negro. In its narrowest meaning it refers to poetry of racial protest and self-exhortation.

It is the undue publicity of poetry of protest and race pride that has displeased many readers. As far as most Americans are concerned, the Negro has been appropriately called "the great American taboo." It is this race prejudice that confronts the critic. A Negro is inclined to praise too highly or, to avoid the accusation of favoritism, to condemn unjustly. The white critic is unconsciously influenced by a feeling of superiority. One of mixed blood is prejudiced toward one side or the other. An honest attempt, however, has been made in this paper to judge fairly the Negro poetry of the twentieth century.


African American Studies | Arts and Humanities | Creative Writing | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Poetry | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology