Breathing the most fascinating and admirable characteristics of race

April 12, 2009

Paul Lawrence Dunbar come to mind?  Not as well known yet writing during the same time period, Elliott Blaine Henderson hit my radar when a book dealer handed me one of his collections, Humble Folkselliott-blaine-henderson, published in 1909. 

I had no idea who Henderson was but fell in love with his photo in the book and also in wonder with the book’s Preface written by the editor of The Columbus Dispatch, E.G. Burkram. 

Here’s some of what Burkram writes:

“In these days when passion and prejudice seem to overshadow the sense of justice it is good to turn to these pages.

“They breathe the most fascinating and admirable characteristics of a race that can sing most effectively and simply the songs of nature, sound the humble heart beats of contentment, and play upon the lyre of native philosophy and mellow wit.”

Henderson’s poems capture a rich African American dialect and heritage. “Pawson Locus Visits Sistah Tootles” is the title of one poem. Here’s the first verse:

Howdy Sistah Tootles!
Ah’s jes’ er passin’ by.
Thought I’d kindah drap in
Let yo’ kno’ revival’s nigh.
Hain’t seed yo’ out to meetin’,
Ner Deacon Tootles needer,
Yo’ know ah miss yo’ al
Kaze yo’s so good er stawtin’ meeter.

Okay, not poetry you’d turn to for reflection or soul-searching but wonderful if read in context of its early 20th century time.  Likely Henderson fell into obscurity because he’s not listed in poets.org, but his books are selling as collectibles — Hoffman’s Bookshop had some for sale at this weekend’s NOBS Bookfair (Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society).

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