To A Dark Girl
I love you for your brownness,
And the rounded darkness of your breast,
I love you for the breaking sadness in your voice
And shadows where your wayward eyelids rest.
Something of old forgotten queens
Lurks in the lithe abandon of your walk
And something of the shackled slave
Sobs in the rhythm of your talk.
Oh, little brown girl, born for sorrow’s mate,
Keep all you have of the queenliness,
Forgetting that you once were slave,
And let your full lips laugh at fate
– Gwendolyn Bennett
Bennett was born on July 8, 1902, in Giddings, Texas to Mayme Frank (Abernathy) and Joshua Robin Bennett. She spent her early childhood in Wadsworth, Nevada on the Paiute Indian Reservation, where her parents taught in the Indian Service for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The family relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1906 so her father could pursue his law degree and her mother could train to be a manicurist and beautician.
Bennett attended the prestigious Brooklyn High School for Girls and became the first black member of the school’s Literary and Dramatic Societies. Upon her graduation from high school in 1921, she enrolled at Columbia University. She eventually earned her college degree from the Pratt Institute in 1924. After completing college, she was hired as an Assistant Professor of Art at Howard University, but she left in 1925 when she was awarded a $1000 scholarship to study art at the Sorbonne in Paris.
In November 1926, her only piece of fiction, “Wedding Day,” was published in Opportunity. Throughout the 1920s, she continued to write poems, such as “Heritage” (1926), “Song” (1926), “Hatred” (1926), and “Wind” (1924). Although Bennett never published her own collection of poetry, she remained a strong influence during the Harlem Renaissance movement by energizing the community with poems about racial pride and Africa and celebrating blackness through romantic lyric. Gwendolyn Bennett died on May 30, 1981.