Joseph Seamon Cotter Sr. was a poet, writer, playwright, and community leader raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Cotter was one of the earliest African-American playwrights to be published.
Cotter was known as “Kentucky’s first Negro poet with real creative ability.” Cotter was born at the start of the American Civil War, and was raised in poverty with no formal education until the age of 22. He later became an educator and an advocate of black education.
After completing the third grade, Cotter dropped out to help support his family. Cotter worked in manual labor and various odd jobs until the age of 22, where he joined the first and newly created Louisville night school for black students. Cotter attended night school for ten months, earning his high school diploma and teaching credentials.
Cotter’s literary contributions include nine published works. Among these works are 4 volumes of poetry: A Rhyming (1895); Links of Friendship (1898); A White Song and a Black One (1909); and Collected Poems (1938). Cotter’s other publications include: Sequel to “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” and Other Poems (1939), a collection of poetry and prose; Negroes and Others at Work and Play (1947); Caleb, the Degenerate; A Play in Four Acts: A Study of the Types, Customs, and Needs of the American Negro (1903); and 2 collections of prose, Negro Tales (1912), and Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Founding of Colored Parkland or “Little Africa,” Louisville, Ky., 1891–1916 (1934).
Dr. Booker T. Washington to the National Negro Business League