A brief biography of James David Corrothers

James David Corrothers was born July 2, 1869. He was a poet, journalist and minister.

James grew up in the town of South Haven, which was established by abolitionists, fugitive slaves and freedmen prior to the civil war. He was raised by his grandfather and was the only local African-American boy to consistently attend school. By age fourteen, his grandfather and he moved to Muskegon, where he lived until his grandfather’s death 2 years later. Corrothers then moved to Indiana and later to Springfield, Ohio. He worked odd jobs for the next two years as a waiter, lumberjack and amateur boxer.

Corrothers later moved to Chicago and in 1887 he got a job as a newspaper reporter when Henry Demarest Lloyd recommended him to the Chicago Tribune. However, he quit the newspaper when he found out that his articles were being rewritten in "black dialect" by White reporters. In 1890, Corrothers gained entry to Northwestern University with the help of Lloyd and Francis Willard. While he didn’t finish, his education helped gain further employment as a writer.

In 1902, Corrothers published his first book, The Black Cat Club, written in dialect. While this gained him notoriety, he later regretted not writing it in standard English, as he felt is was more appropriate for the 20th century. Despite this success, James decided to become a minister, and worked in African-American Episcopal, Baptist and Methodist churches. In 1901 he wrote The Snapping of the Bow, the first of several books in which he explored racial injustice. This was later followed by At the Closed Gate of Justice in 1913, and In Spit of the Handicap, an autobiography, in 1916.

James David died on February 12, 1917. W. E. B. Du Bois praised him as, “a serious loss to the race and to literature.” Several of his poems were published posthumously in The Book of American Negro Poetry in 1922.


Works by James David Corrothers

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