Arna Bontemps' poetry is a metaphor for racial prejudice and the hardships they faced. "They haven't sown anything, yet they eat bitter fruit." He explains that his children were born free and should have equal rights, yet they are nonetheless subjected to discrimination. Through his poems, he expresses his bitterness over this situation.
Bontemps was born on April 5th, 1875 in New York City into a wealthy family. His parents were French American and his father was a successful coffee merchant. When Arna was only nine years old, his father died and was forced to leave his family behind so he could make money to bring them to America. This experience greatly affected Arna and made him aware of the difficulties people had to face because of their race. It also taught him that if you want things to change, you have to take action yourself.
After high school, Bontemps went to Harvard University where he studied English literature and sociology. While he was there, he began writing poems which got published in magazines. In 1901, he received a master's degree in sociology.
Soon after, Bontemps moved to Louisiana where he worked as a sociologist for the United States Census Bureau. There, he met Dr. William Alexander Percy, who became his mentor and friend.
Arna Bontemps, like his close friend Langston Hughes and their fellow Harlem Renaissance authors, examined the African-American experience in a number of genres. He expanded and conserved black culture's cultural history as a poet, writer, historian, anthologist, and archivist. His work helped bring attention to racial issues within the United States.
Bontemps was born on January 4th, 1875 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His father was French American and his mother was African American. When he was only nine years old, his family moved to Washington, D.C.. There he attended public schools and Howard University, where he learned to write and speak well while earning degrees in literature and music.
After graduating in 1897, Bontemps took a job with the government working on race relations projects throughout the country. In 1902, he married Grace Naylor, who worked as a schoolteacher. They had two children together: John Jr., who died when he was young; and Carolyn.
In 1908, Bontemps returned to New York City where he began writing articles for various publications including The Voice, a newspaper that focused on African-American affairs. He also wrote poems, stories, and essays for other magazines such as The Crisis, The Independent, and Vanity Fair.
The concept that African Americans live in an unfair society pervades the two poems, "A Black Man Talks of Reaping" and "From the Dark Tower." display more stuff... Throughout his poem, the tone indicates dissatisfaction with white society's mistreatment of the African American race. The first stanza expresses the black man's anger at being denied rights granted to whites:
Anger fills his heart, but still he plows his farm - / For hate is stronger than love, they say.
He says blacks are treated badly by most people, even though they work hard and obey the law. The last line contains a proverb meaning that hatred can never be overcome for something terrible has happened to this poor farmer. Maybe a bear stole his crops or someone threw acid in his face - we will never know because the black man was killed.
Now listen carefully because I'm about to tell you how the tone works in this poem. First, note that all the lines except for the last one are divided into groups of three. This means that every third word begins with a consonant (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z). Next, look at the last line of the poem. It doesn't contain any words that start with a consonant so the rhythm ends here.
The phrase "bitter fruit" at the conclusion of the poem refers to the fact that African Americans were formerly denied property ownership of their farms. That changed with a federal law in 1865 that allowed them to own land they worked, but only if they were able to prove financial responsibility. If they could not show this ability, then the government would assume the debt and take over the property.
In the years following the Civil War, many former slaves did manage to acquire small parcels of land which they could call their own. However, as we have seen, this privilege was not given to all African Americans. In fact, it was granted based on race. White landowners often took advantage of this system by selling credit to black farmers who had no way to pay for these goods immediately. If the farmers failed to meet their obligations, they would be forced into bankruptcy and their lands would be seized by their creditors.
This is why the phrase "bitter fruit" can be used as a summary of how slavery affected black Americans. It not only deprived them of their freedom, but also of their livelihood. This last part of the poem actually describes what would happen each year on the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.