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Catalog Data

Written by:
Countee Cullen, American, 1903 - 1946  Search this
Published by:
Harper & Brothers, American, 1817 - 1962  Search this
ink on wove paper and cardboard with synthetic fiber
H x W x D (closed): 7 13/16 × 5 3/8 × 13/16 in. (19.8 × 13.6 × 2 cm)
H x W x D (open): 7 13/16 × 10 13/16 × 13/16 in. (19.8 × 27.4 × 2 cm)
Place printed:
New York, New York, United States, North and Central America
Countee Cullen (1903 – 1946) was a leading literary figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He published Color in 1925, the same year he graduated from New York University and began a master's program at Harvard University. Written in the Romantic style, Color is a poetic exploration of the black experience, its beauty, the effects of racism and segregation, and religious frustrations. Many of the poems were previously published in various literary magazines and had already made Countee Cullen a well-recognized literary figure. Color is thought to be his most well-regarded work.
Cullen finished his Master’s in English at Harvard in 1926, and by 1929 he published three more volumes of his own poems and edited poetry by other African Americans. In 1928, he was awarded the Guggenheim fellowship to write poetry while in France. In 1932, Cullen published his only novel, One Way to Heaven, a social comedy of lower-class blacks and the bourgeoisie in New York City. From 1934 until the end of his life in 1946, he taught English, French, and creative writing at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York City.
In this particular first-edition copy of Color, there is a handwritten poem in pencil and ink on one of the pages in the front of the book, near the publishing information page. This poem is written to Countee Cullen, signed by The Faun, and discussed how Cullen’s poems can move all people, no matter their skin color. This letter was copied in both the Chicago Tribune and in The Crisis magazine’s October 1926 issue.
A hardcover first edition book of poetry titled Color, written by Countee Cullen. The book has a bright yellow cloth bound spine and front and back printed paper covers in a geometric pattern of red, white, yellow, and blue shapes. At the top of the front cover is a yellow square with a thin black inner border and the title [COLOR] in large black text followed by the author [COUNTEE CULLEN] in slightly smaller text.
On the flyleaf is a handwritten poem by an anonymous author, written as a letter to Countee Cullen, and signed “The Faun.” This is followed by the half-title, title page, copyright, dedication, acknowledgements, and table of contents. A preface in the form of a poem titled “To You Who Read My Book,” precedes the poems, which are organized into three sections, “Color,” “Epitaphs,” “For Love’s Sake,” and “Varia.” Included is an epitaph for Paul Laurence Dunbar, and a memorial poem for Colonel Charles Young. There are 108 pages, without illustration or other ornamentation. The interior of the front cover has a black-and-white bookplate with a crest and [Scattergood 1664].
African American  Search this
Health  Search this
Identity  Search this
LGBTQ  Search this
Mental health  Search this
Poetry  Search this
Race discrimination  Search this
Religion  Search this
Segregation  Search this
Violence  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Micky and Linda West
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Public domain
Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Harlem Renaissance (New Negro Movement)
Cultural Expressions
On View:
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Culture/Fourth Floor, 4 050
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture