The Howard Poets

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The Howard Poets was a group of young African American intellectuals who studied at Howard University in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Winston Napier wrote that the group "achieved an intellectual vigor and a literary standard which easily competes with many more celebrated movements, but in many ways they aesthetically predate and qualitatively surpass the more popular writers of the Black Arts Movement."

Eugene Redmond, writing in Drumvoices: A Critical History, states: "As a group the Howard Poets represent one of the toughest intellectual strains in contemporary Black poetry. Maybe the fact of their having such diverse interests, backgrounds and training aided in their vitality, virtuosity and power. To be sure, these are conscious poets, but–avoiding slogans and sentimental hero worship–they present precise analysis and interpretation of their world...A concern for civil rights and Black struggle merges with an awareness of 'the bomb,' of middle class pretensions, history, mythology, religion, and the various trends in poetry: modernity, Beat poetry, jazz and folk lyrics."

The original group consisted of Walter de Legall, Alfred Fraser, Oswald Govan, Percy Johnston, Leroy Stone and Joseph White. They were later joined by David Dorsey, Lance Jeffers, Dolores Kendrick, Nathan Richards, Clyde Taylor, Laura Watkins, and Edward Watson, among others.

Napier's essay, originally appearing in the journal GW Washington Studies in July 1986, was reprinted in Beltway Poetry Quarterly in Fall 2012: http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/the-howard-poets/

Additionally, Myra Sklarew wrote an essay, "The Howard Poets in Perspective," that appeared in the "Splendid Wake" Issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly in Fall 2014: http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/howard-poets/


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