Uncle Jim

By Countee Cullen 1903–1946 Countee Cullen
“White folks is white,” says uncle Jim;   
“A platitude,” I sneer;
And then I tell him so is milk,
And the froth upon his beer.

His heart walled up with bitterness,   
He smokes his pungent pipe,
And nods at me as if to say,
“Young fool, you’ll soon be ripe!”

I have a friend who eats his heart   
Always with grief of mine,
Who drinks my joy as tipplers drain   
Deep goblets filled with wine.

I wonder why here at his side,   
Face-in-the-grass with him,
My mind should stray the Grecian urn   
To muse on uncle Jim.

Countee Cullen, “Uncle Jim” from My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen. Copyrights held by the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, administered by Thompson and Thompson, Brooklyn, NY.

Source: My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen (Anchor Books, 1991)

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Poet Countee Cullen 1903–1946

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Ballad

 Countee  Cullen

Biography

Countee Cullen was perhaps the most representative voice of the Harlem Renaissance. His life story is essentially a tale of youthful exuberance and talent of a star that flashed across the Afro-American firmament and then sank toward the horizon. When his paternal grandmother and guardian died in 1918, the fifteen-year-old Countee LeRoy Porter was taken into the home of the Reverend Frederick A. Cullen, the pastor of Salem . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Ballad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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