Black Man o’ Mine,
If the world were your lover,
It could not give what I give to you,
Or the ocean would yield and you could discover
Its ages of treasure to hold and to view;
Could it fill half the measure of my heart’s portion . . .
Just for you living, just for you giving all this devotion,
Black man o’ mine.
Black man o’ mine,
As I hush and caress you, close to my heart,
All your loving is just your needing what is true;
Then with your passing dark comes my darkest part,
For living without your love is only rue.
Black man o’ mine, if the world were your lover
It could not give what I give to you.
Poet Anne Spencer, of Bramwell WV, was born on February 6, 1882. Many of Spencer’s poems convey a romantic concern with the human search for beauty and meaning in a disgusting world, as well as people’s wasted attempts to enforce order on God’s earth. While attending Lynchburg’s Virginia Seminary Spencer penned her first poem, The Skeptic (1896), and also met her future husband, Edward. The couple married on May 15, 1901, settled in Lynchburg and raised three children.
In 1918 Spencer was visited by James Weldon Johnson, author of The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), then field secretary for the NAACP. Their meeting launched a lifetime friendship—and with Before the Feast at Sushan, which she submitted to the Crisis (1920), it inaugurated her publishing era.
With the rise of black literature in the 1920s, Spencer began to receive the attention she deserved. Her work typifies the style of the Harlem Renaissance school of writers. She published most of her poems during that decade in the period’s most prestigious collections. These include: James Weldon Johnson’s The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922); Robert T. Kerlin’s Negro Poets and Their Poems (1923); Louis Untermeyer’s American Poetry Since 1900 (1923); Alain Locke’s The New Negro (1925); and Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk (1925).
One of Spencer’s last poems, For Jim, Easter Eve was published in Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps’s The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949 (1948). In addition to her writing, Spencer organized Lynchburg’s NAACP chapter and opened a library at the African American Dunbar High School. Among the many visitors to her Lynchburg home were W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall. After her death in 1975, many of her writings were lost. However, her strong feminist voice carried far beyond her mountain roots, calling out to women of color everywhere.