George Marion McClellan was an African American poet, writer, minister, and educator.
McClellan was born in Belfast, Tennessee on September 29, 1860 to George Fielding and Eliza (Leonard) McClellan. Little is known about McClellan’s early life.
In 1885 McClellan obtained a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1890, McClellan received a master’s degree from Fisk. McClellan married and had two sons, one of whom died in childhood of tuberculosis and about whom McClellan wrote tenderly in his poem “To Theodore.”
From the early 1880s onward McClellan composed poetry and wrote prose while he pursued his academic degrees. Before his first published work Poems appeared in 1895, and after attaining his bachelor of divinity degree in 1891 from the Hartford Theological Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, McClellan served as a Congregational minister in Nashville, Tennessee. From 1892 to 1894 McClellan was employed as a financial agent at Fisk University, during which time he traveled often from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky. Between 1894 and 1896 McClellan worked as a chaplain and teacher at the State Normal School for Colored Persons in Normal, Alabama.
Throughout McClellan’s adult life he continued to teach and to minister, and he also published short stories, literary criticism, and poetry from 1895 to 1916. Twelve poems from his 1895 collection Poems were published in 1896 under the title Songs of a Southerner.
George Marion McClellan pursued his fight for racial justice and dignity for African Americans through his literary achievements, and by working as a respected educator and minister. He died at age 73 on May 17, 1934 in Los Angeles, California.
by George Marion McClellan
To dreamy languors and the violet mist
Of early Spring, the deep sequestered vale
Gives first her paling-blue Miamimist,
Where blithely pours the cuckoo’s annual tale
Of Summer promises and tender green,
Of a new life and beauty yet unseen.
The forest trees have yet a sighing mouth,
Where dying winds of March their branches swing,
While upward from the dreamy, sunny South,
A hand invisible leads on the Spring.
His rounds from bloom to bloom the bee begins
With flying song, and cowslip wine he sups,
Where to the warm and passing southern winds,
Azaleas gently swing their yellow cups.
Soon everywhere, with glory through and through,
The fields will spread with every brilliant hue.
But high o’er all the early floral train,
Where softness all the arching sky resumes,
The dogwood dancing to the winds’ refrain,
In stainless glory spreads its snowy blooms.