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Countee Cullen Correspondence Collection

Identifier: GV001

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of correspondence from Countee Cullen to his childhood friend William F. Brown, Jr., as well as miscellaneous items relating to Cullen's writing. Many letters are partially written in Latin, and concern Cullen's literary and scholarly pursuits. Cullen included in his letters many handwritten and manuscript copies of his poems, in addition to a few newspaper clippings of his published poems, and copies of the high school literary journal and newspaper for which Cullen wrote. Also included are several of Cullen's attempts at writing song lyrics, as well as a copy of a letter regarding this pursuit from a composer's bureau. The bulk of the correspondence is from the years 1918-1927.


  • Creation: 1918-1939
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1918-1927)

Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Restrictions on Access

Items in this collection do not circulate and can be used in-house only.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright of all materials in the collection is retained by the Cullen estate. Contact the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118-5698, (504) 865-5535, for permission to quote any items in the collection for commercial purposes.

Biographical Note

Born in 1903, Countee Cullen was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Primarily known as a poet, he also wrote children's books, plays, and a novel. Born Countee Porter, he was adopted by Rev. Frederick Cullen, a Methodist minister, and attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City. He began writing poetry as a teenager and edited his high school newspaper and literary magazine. Cullen received degrees from New York University and Harvard. He married Yolande DuBois, daughter of W.E.B. DuBois, in 1928, but they divorced in 1930. He was a French teacher at Frederick Douglas Junior High School, where one of his students was James Baldwin. He married Ida Mae Roberson in 1940.

Cullen's poetry was in the lyric romantic tradition of Keats and Shelley, though he often (but not exclusively) touched upon racial concerns. Among is best known works are Color, Copper Sun, and The Ballad of the Brown Girl. He was writing the book of the musical St. Louis Woman when he died in 1946.

William Fuller Brown, Jr. was born in Lyon Mountain, N.Y. in 1904 and received degrees from Cornell and Columbia Universities. He was a research physicist at several firms including Sun Oil Co. and 3M. He later served as an electrical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota from 1957-1973. He died in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1983.


1 box


The collection consists of letters from poet Countee Cullen to his childhood friend William Fuller Brown, Jr. Much of the correspondence refers to Cullen's writing and includes many handwritten and manuscript copies of poems.


The material is arranged in three series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Poems
  3. Magpie

Acquisition Information

Purchased in 1986 from Mrs. Nancy Brown, wife of William F. Brown, Jr., through the University of Minnesota Foundation as the first major acquisition of the Black Literature Collection (later Givens Collection of African-American Literature).

Countee Cullen Correspondence
April 2004
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Givens Collection of African American Literature Collecting Area