Name, Race, and Gift in Common

Jonathan Brooks, leaving a thin sheaf of unpublished poems, died in 1945, the year that Gwendolyn Brooks published her first book, A Street in Bronzeville. They were not related and had nothing in common save their last names, their race, and a gift for poetry. Jonathan Brooks was born, lived, and died in Mississippi. Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Kansas and lives in Chicago. One poet is rural and Deep South, the other urban and North. Their poems reflect these differences.

With the love of one poet for another, Henry Dalton, white, of Corinth, Mississippi, has assembled and brought to publication twenty-three of the poems of Jonathan Henderson Brooks under the title, The Resurrection & Other Poems. Concerning this slender volume, Hodding Carter, another Mississippian says, that this Negro poet "sings with a gentle mysticism and poignant imagery of an unbounded world, a world of faith that can 'measure great Gibraltar by a butterfly"'. Certainly Jonathan Brooks possessed deep religious feeling expressed in the simple loveliness of the musical word. His poems sing, yet say directly what they choose to say, as in this excerpt from " The Missionary", a fine tribute to one sincere white teacher and, through him, to many who have devoted their lives to education in the segregated Negro schools of the South:

From Voices, no. 140 (Winter 1950). © Harold Vinal.


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