|Frank Marshall Davis
poet and newspaper editor
Frank Marshall Davis was born
in Arkansas City, Kansas, on December 31, 1905.
When he was seventeen he moved to Wichita,
Kansas, to attend Friends University; he later
transferred to the School of Journalism at Kansas
State Agricultural College (now Kansas State
Davis began writing poems as
the result of a college assignment. In 1927, he
moved to Chicago, where he wrote articles and
short stories for the Chicago Evening
Bulletin, the Chicago Whip, the
Chicago Star, and other papers and
magazines. In 1930, he moved to Atlanta to become
an editor of the Atlanta Daily World, a
semi-weekly paper. Under his leadership the Daily
World soon became the first successful daily
black newspaper in America.
Davis continued writing and
publishing poems, and his first book, Black
Man's Verse, was published by Norman Forge's
Black Cat Press in 1935. Bringing together Davis'
interest in jazz and free verse with a
condemnation of racial oppression, the book was a
critical success. One section of the book,
"Ebony under Granite," chronicles the
lives of various black people buried in a
cemetery. His second book, I Am the American
Negro, was published in 1937, also by Black
Cat Press. The title poem in this book is a
"docudrama" in free verse and prose
that attacks "Jim Crow" laws.
Between 1935 and 1947, Davis
was Executive Director for the Associated Negro
Press in Chicago. He also started a photography
club, worked for various political parties, and
participated in the League of American Writers.
47th Street, which
chronicles the varied life on Chicago's South
Side, was published in 1948. Unlike his earlier
works, which focused exclusively on black life, 47th
Street presents a "rainbow race"
of people, united more by class than color.
In 1948, a vacation to
Honolulu, Hawaii, became a permanent move. In
Hawaii, Davis raised five children, operated a
small wholesale paper business, and wrote a
weekly column for the Honolulu Record.
Davis' final volume, Awakening,
and Other Poems, was published in 1978.
Frank Marshall Davis died on
July 26, 1987. Two collections of his writings
were published posthumously: Livin' the Blues:
Memories of a Black Journalist and Poet (1992) and Black Moods:
The Academy of American Poets www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/465
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