James Edwin Campbell
Poet, teacher, and journalist James Edwin Campbell wrote poems in authentic dialect. While his contemporary Paul Laurence Dunbar is often credited with popularizing verse in dialect, in fact Campbell had been publishing such poetry for several years prior to Dunbar’s success. Born in Pomeroy, Ohio, Campbell was an 1884 graduate of Pomeroy Academy. He worked first as a teacher in Ohio and then as principal of Langston School in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and of West Virginia Colored Institute (now West Virginia State University).
Active in politics and a skilled public speaker, Campbell moved to Chicago after marrying and became a staff writer for the Times-Herald. While publishing his own poems and articles, he participated in the publication of Four O’Clock Magazine. Campbell died at age 28 of pneumonia while visiting Pomeroy.
Campbell’s volume Driftings and Gleanings (1887) includes poems in Standard English and essays. His poetry collection, Echoes from the Cabin and Elsewhere (1895), is often praised as one of the finest collections of dialect poems of the 19th century, managing to mix realism and folk wisdom with authentic, rhythmic dialect.