A poet or a traitor?

Countee Cullen is no doubt successful in achieving his goal of “to be read as a poet, not a Negro poet.” He utilizes imagery, understatement, and religious references effectively to achieve such goal. But many critics say that he is too successful that he was called a “traitor to his race.” As black writers during the Harlem Renaissance increasingly explored the literary possibilities of black localism, Cullen’s work seemed to be a less vital part of African American tradition. Many poets criticized Cullen for this, including Langston Hughes. Although he avoided directly calling Countee Cullen out, Hughes wrote about a poet who secretly desires to be white in his “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” In response to people calling him a traitor, Cullen wrote “To Certain Critics” which he shames the faction-“the clan”- that would limit his artistic freedom on the fields of race.cullenc

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