Melvin Beaunorus Tolson ( Feb 6, 1898, in Moberly Missouri,- died on August 29, 1966, in Delas Texas) is an African American Poet who worked within the Modernist tradition to explore African American Issues.
Early life and Career
Born on February 6, 1898, in Moberly Missouri to Alonzo Tolson, an itinerant Methodist Minister, and Lera ( Hurt) Tolson, since his father is a missionary Melvin Tolson moved from town to town.
Tolson attended various High schools, as he moved about from place to place, before graduating from High school in Kansas City, Missouri in 1918, he spend his Freshman year at Fisk University, then proceeded to Lincoln University, Oxford Pennsylvania where he obtained his bachelor degree in 1924 and his master degree in English and Comparative Literature from Colombia University in 1940
With an appointment in Speech and English, Melvin started his career as a teacher at Wiley College, Marshall, Texas in 1924, where he lead an award-winning team, he worked there for the Next Twenty – three years, working as a professor of English, Drama, and Speech at Langston University from 1947 to 1965.
Melvin Tolson showed an early interest in poetry, drama, and debate, he was only fourteen years when his first poem was printed, and experimenting with a variety of styles, he became acquainted with the Waning Harlem Resistance and the poetry of Hart Crane, Ezra pound and others
In 1944, Melvin published his first book” Rendezvous with America ” including the poem ” Dark Symphony ” which won first place in the American Negro Exposition National poetry contest in 1939.
On 9 October 1937, Melvin started a weekly column for the Washington tribune entitled ” Cavier and Cabbage ” which continue until 24 June 1944, this column emphasizes the problem of the black world of the late thirties and early forties with the insight of an intellectual
And verbal richness and rhythms of a poet are heavily influenced by a strong pulpit tradition.
By the time Melvin left texas in 1947, he had reportedly also been active in organizing farm laborers and sharecroppers and worked as a professor of English and drama at Langston University, Oklahoma until his retirement in 1964.
In 1947, in connection with Centennial of his country President William V. S. Tubman ( Former and 19th President of Liberia) confered on Melvin Tolson, Poet Laureate, appreciating this gesture, he responded with his Libretto for Republic. of Liberia (1953), an epic poem commerating the African Nation Centennial.
John Ciardi, the poet and critic observed that in this collection, Liberreti for Republic of Liberia (1953) Melvin Tolson create a vision of Africa past, present and future with prodigous eclecticism and force of language and rhythm.
In 1965, Tolson published, “The Curator” this was part of book one of Tolson A Gallery Of Harlem portrait, it was unpublished during his cause of his life
Melvin Tolson Books
. Harlem Gallery
. Libretto for the republic of Liberia ( 1953)
. A gallery of Harlem Potrait
. Cavier and Cabbage
. Harlem Gallery Book 1: The Curator(1965)
. Black no more (1952)
. Rendezvous with America (1944)
. American Negro Exposition Poetry Contest (1939)
. Poet Laureate of Liberia (1947)
. Bess Hokin Prize for Poetry ( 1951)
. Bread loaf Writer Conference Permanent Fellow in Poetry and drama (1954)
. Lincoln University Honorary Doctor of letter (1954)
. District of Columbia Citation and Award for Cultural Achievement in Fine Arts (1965)
. Lincoln University , Second Honorary Doctor of letters (1965)
. Avalon Chair in Humanities at Tuskege, Appointee ( 1965)
. National Institute and American Academy of Arts and letter $2500 grant ( 1965)
. Rockefeller Foundation Award (1966).
Personal life and Melvin Tolson Junior
On January 29,1922 he married Ruth Southhall of Charlottesville, Virginia who he met as a student at Lincoln University, they gave birth to Four children. Their first child, Melvin Beaunorus Tolson junior, who as adult become a professor at the University of Oklahoma.