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'A Black Man Talks of Reaping" explores the question of labor without reward that has so characterized the status of blacks in America. Although the speaker has "scattered seed enough to plant the land/in rows from Canada to Mexico," there is no healthy yield that he can pass on to his children . . .

The sentiment Bontemps expresses here echoes that of Countee Cullen in "From the Dark Tower, " in which he asserts "we shall not always plant while others reap/The golden increment of bursting fruit,/Not always countenance, abject and mute,/that lesser men should hold their brothers cheap."


From Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 51. Ed. Trudier Harris. Copyright © 1987 by the Gale Group.