James D. Corrothers

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James D. Corrothers ca. 1910

James David Corrothers (1869–1917) was an African-American poet, journalist, and minister whom editor T. Thomas Fortune called "the coming poet of the race." When he died, W. E. B. Du Bois eulogized him as "a serious loss to the race and to literature."[1][2]

Corrothers was born in Michigan and grew up in a small town of anti-slavery activists who settled before the war. He attended Northwestern University in Chicago but left to work a newspaper reporter. He met Frederick Douglass at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.[3][4] Corrothers gained early fame with his volume of poetry in "Negro dialect" but later expressed his regret about the volume.[5] Corrothers thought that poetry in "standard English" was more appropriate for the twentieth century. In his autobiography, Corrothers claimed credit for bringing the work of another poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, to the attention of William Dean Howells.[6] Corrothers shared a long friendship with his contemporary Paul Laurence Dunbar [7] and, after Dunbar's death, memorialized him with the poem "Paul Laurence Dunbar," published in Century Magazine (1912). In 1922, James Weldon Johnson published seven poems by Corrothers in the anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922).

From "Paul Laurence Dunbar"

Dunbar, no poet wears your laurels now;
None rises, singing, from your race like you.
Dark melodist, immortal, though the dew
Fell early on the bays upon your brow,
And tinged with pathos every halcyon vow
And brave endeavor. Silence o’er you threw
Flowerets of love. Or, if an envious few
Of your own people brought no garlands, how
Could Malice smite him whom the gods had crowned?
If, like the meadow-lark, your flight was low
Your flooded lyrics half the hilltops drowned;
A wide world heard you, and it loved you so
It stilled its heart to list the strains you sang,
And o’er your happy songs its plaudits rang.

James D. Corrothers
from Century Magazine, 1912


  • The Snapping of the Bow, 1901
  • The Black Cat Club, 1902
  • At the Closed Gate of Justice, 1913
  • In Spite of the Handicap, 1916


  1. ^ Gaines, Kevin. "Assimilationist minstrelsy as racial uplift ideology: James D. Corrothers's literary quest for black leadership." American Quarterly (1993): 341
  2. ^ "The Looking Glass," The Crisis, April 1917 p. 287
  3. ^ James D. Corrothers, In Spite of the Handicap (New York: George H. Doran Company) 1916
  4. ^ Bruce, Dickson D. "James Corrothers Reads a Book; or, the Lives of Sandy Jenkins." African American Review (1992): 665-673.
  5. ^ Kevin Gaines "Assimilationist minstrelsy as Racial Uplift Ideology: James D. Corrothers's Literary Quest for Black Leadership." American Quarterly (1993)
  6. ^ James D. Corrothers, In Spite of the Handicap (New York: George H. Doran Company) 1916, p. 143-144.
  7. ^ Alexander, Eleanor. Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore: a History of Love and Violence Among the African American Elite. NYU Press, 2001. p. 15

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