William Stanley Braithwaite, Poet, anthologist

His parents were black but lightskinned enough on both sides that some of his family had been able to pass for white (how often they did, I don’t know). On his mother’s side, one of the grandmothers had been a skave. On his father’s side they were from the West Indies, and his father studied medicine in England.

In his early life he and his siblings were home educated by their father. His father died while WSB was still young, and he was sent to a Boston public school for a time. However, times were hard for any widow, let alone the daughter of a slave, to raise a family on her own, so at 12 he quit school to help his family. He became an errand boy.
Then he apprenticed at the Ginn and Co publishing house to learn typesetting.

“the 15-year-old fell under the spell of poetry—prompted, he later recalled, by John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” He began to read avidly, spending hours at the Boston Public Library, where he discovered that “the deeper I read, the more, and often discouragingly, I realized the difficulties confronting me,” the Dictionary of Literary Biography essay quoted him as writing.”

Across the centuries, an old dead white poet reached out and started an answering fire in the heart of a young, impoverished, fatherless, undereducated black teenager. Braithwaite would go on to write underwhelming poetry of his own, but more importantly, he edited poetry anthologies, published poetry journals, and kindled a revival of interest in poetry in America.

He looked for newer, unrecognized and underappreciated poets to include in his journals and anthologies. He made sure to include black voices, with neither fear nor favour, judging them on the same merits as other poets, in all things treating them as equals. So formidable and unquestioned was his authority and influence that he was called Sir Oracle and the Boston Dictator by a rival publication. His 1913 anthology was one of the first to include both black and white poets, and his acknowledgement could, and often did, launch a poet’s career.

More here:

Read more: William Stanley Braithwaite Biography – Discovered English Romantic Poetry, Edited Numerous Anthologies, Taught for a Decade, Selected writings – American, Verse, Boston, and Literary – JRank Articles https://biography.jrank.org/pages/2734/Braithwaite-William-Stanley.html#ixzz6loIPsgVK

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One Comment

  1. Cat
    Posted February 12, 2021 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy reading these posts of yours and learning about people I may or may not have heard about before. I think I recognise the name here but I didn’t recall any details about his life. What an invaluable contribution he made in the field of poetry!

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