We are not come to wage a strife

With swords upon this hill,

It is not wise to waste the life

Against a stubborn will.

Yet we would die as some have done.

Beating a way for the rising sun.

-- Arna Bontemps, African American poet, historian and librarian, born October 13, 1902.

Langston Hughes meets with Paul Robeson, Canada Lee, and Arna Bontemps about the Maxine Wood play, “On Whitman Avenue” in 1946. The play was about a Black World War II veteran who encountered racist opposition when he and his family moved into a White neighborhood. Mr. Lee produced and starred in the play which ran for 148 performances. This photo is from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library. Their record does not identify the gentleman on the left as Arna Bontemps (it simply says “Unidentified man”) but I am confident that it is indeed Mr. Hughes’s fellow poet and friend, Mr. Bontemps.

"Let us keep the dance of rain our fathers kept and tread our dreams beneath the jungle sky." ~ Arna Bontemps

Poet and novelist Arna Bontemps was born on October 13, 1902 in Alexandria, Louisiana. A prolific member of the Harlem Renaissance, Bontemps is known for his works including the novel God Sends Sunday and the anthology Great Slave Narratives.

Bontemps died of a heart attack on June 4, 1973 while working on his autobiography. He was 70.


I have sown beside all waters in my day. I planted deep, within my heart the fear that wind or fowl would take the grain away. I planted safe against this stark, lean year.   I scattered seed enough to plant the land in rows from Canada to Mexico but for my reaping only what the hand can hold at once is all that I can show. Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields my brother's sons are gathering stalk and root; small wonder then my children glean in fields they have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit.

-- Arna Bontemps, African American poet, born October 13, 1902.