Countee Cullen never got the acclaim of Langston Hughes, which no doubt irritated him. Although they were superficially friendly, there was really only room for one major black poet in the early 20th century, and Hughes wasn’t about to cede any ground. Hughes made a living from his writing, but Cullen had trouble, ending up teaching junior high school until his early death in 1947.
Not a lot is known about Cullen’s early years — he seems to have been born in Kentucky in 1903 — and his passage could legitimately be described as difficult. Even though he was primarily gay, he married the daughter of W.E.B. Dubois. It didn’t last long.
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