Born in Washington, D.C. into the family of an eminent minister, Sterling A. Brown (1901—1989) was educated at Williams College and Harvard, where he gave early signs of his brilliance. Inspired by such American masters of the vernacular as Edgar Lee Masters and Carl Sandburg, Brown did extensive fieldwork in the folkways of rural African Americans, then drew a vibrant portrait of their life by filling traditional poetic forms with idioms drawn from the blues and jazz. From 1929 to 1969 he was an inspiring teacher at Howard University.