“Art is not an escape, but a way of finding order in chaos, a way of confronting life” (Berry, Wendell). These were the judicious words that were once stated by American poet and educator, Robert Hayden. Despite being raised in an unstable home, moving from his family to a foster family, on top of struggling with impaired vision, Hayden found an interest in black history and poetry which would later bring him great recognition and success. And he would do so by utilizing his broad study of black history to “illuminate the American black experience” (Contemporary Authors Online). Writing of historical figures such as Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman, he shed light on his beliefs and went on to make history in the world of
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O’Meally exclaims, “using varieties of ironic black folk speech, and a spare, ebullient poetic diction, to grip and chill his readers” (Contemporary Authors Online). In 1944, he graduated from Detroit City College and moved on to Fisk University, an institution centered on African-Americans. After spending twenty-three years there, and becoming an English professor both at Fisk then the University of Michigan, Hayden would cause much controversy as he arose in the world of poetry.
Throughout his life, he experienced isolation and judgment. As a child with impaired vision, he often found himself short of friends, which forced him to find contentment in another form. Hayden found this in literature and poetry, and later, in the history of African-Americans. The 1930’s sparked the beginning of his extensive research when he started exploring black history for the Federal Writers’ Project in his hometown Detroit. Although the history of Hayden’s people was a major influence in his writing, he also found inspiration in his Baha’i faith, which accentuates spiritual unity amongst all people. Hayden converted to the religion after marrying his wife Emma I. Morris in 1940. His inclusion of religion and history in his work made him a controversial poetic figure. He was even once “accused of abandoning his racial heritage to conform to the standards of a white, European literary establishment” (Contemporary Authors Online). This is the possible result of his declaration of