Marshall County’s own: African-American poets and authors

Thursday, February 28, 2019

African-American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent.

Black poetry draws its inspiration from musical traditions such as gospel, blues, sermons, and jazz. Black poems are inextricably linked to the experience of African-Americans through their history in America from slavery to segregation and throughout the equal rights movement.

As early as the American Revolution, black poets wrote verses reflecting the time in which they lived. The African-American’s place in society has changed over the years--so has the focus of African=American literature. Before the Civil War, literature primarily consisted of memoirs by people who had escaped from slavery, the path of justice and redemption to freedom.

Today, African-American literature has reached its peak as books by black writers continue to receive best-selling and award winning status. African-American literature has become an integral part of American literature with books such as “Roots: The Saga of American Family” by Alex Haley and “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar is another well-known African-American author. He is best Known for is poetry, prose, and short stories written in dialect. His poem “Jealous” is one example of his marvelous writings, the first stanza of which follows:

Hyeah come Caesar Higgins,

Don’t he think he ‘s fine?

Look at dem new riggin’s

Ain’t he tryin’ to shine?

Got a standin’ collar

An’ a stove-pipe hat,

I ‘ll jes’ bet a dollar

Some one gin him dat.

Last, but not least, four Marshall County natives have also become authors and published books. This list of writers includes: George Marion McClellan, Cedric Dukes, Dr. Stanley Murphy, and Ricardo Owens.

George Marion McClellan was born on Sept. 29, 1860, in Belfast to Eliza (Leonard) and George Fielding McClellan. He was educated at Fisk University in Nashville and Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut.

McClellan was a teacher of Latin and English, principal, minister, fiction writer, and poet. He is the author of two poetry collections: “The Path of Dreams” and “Poems.” He married a teacher, Mariah Augusta Rabb, in 1888. Little is known about his adult life. McClellan died in 1934.

Cedric Dukes is a graduate of Marshall County High School. He is the oldest son of Roy and Louise Dukes of Lewisburg.

Dukes is the author of three books; “Hostile Takeover,” “Power of Time,” and the newly released “Man.” He also co-authored a book with his wife, Esterlen Dukes and Adrian and Senia Brown, entitled “What Every Marriage Must Know.”

He graduated from South Carolina State University with a B.S. in electrical technology and Wayne State University with an M.S. in engineering technology. He now resides in Shelby Township, Mich. with his wife and two children.

Dr. Stanley D. Murphy is another M.C.H.S graduate. He is the son of the late Ervin and Virginia Murphy of the Farmington community.

He is the co-author of two books, “Current Issues in Higher Education Research and Reforms” and “International Higher Education Systems.” He also has more than 25 academic publications.

Murphy holds both bachelor and masters degrees in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University, a bachelors degree in theology from Ambassador University, and Ed.S and Ed.D degrees from Tennessee State University. He now resides in Nashville.

Another former M.C.H.S. student is Ricardo A. Owens, the son of Debbie Owens Rhodes of Lewisburg.

Despite some physical challenges, Ricardo has worked hard to identify himself as an author-poet and has successfully published a book entitled “Abstract Beyond Vizion.” His book is available for purchase at all major online booksellers and is available to borrow at the Marshall County Memorial Library as well. He resides here in Lewisburg.