Dark Testament: and Other Poems (Paperback)
With the cadences of Martin Luther King Jr. and the lyricism of Langston Hughes, the great civil rights activist Pauli Murray’s sole book of poems finally returns to print.
There has been explosive interest in the life of Pauli Murray, as reflected in a recent profile in The New Yorker, the publication of a definitive biography, and a new Yale University college in her name. Murray has been suddenly cited by leading historians as a woman who contributed far more to the civil rights movement than anyone knew, being arrested in 1940—fifteen years before Rosa Parks—for refusing to give up her seat on a Virginia bus. Celebrated by twenty-first-century readers as a civil rights activist on the level of King, Parks, and John Lewis, she is also being rediscovered as a gifted writer of memoir, sermons, and poems. Originally published in 1970 and long unavailable, Dark Testament and Other Poems attests to her fierce lyrical powers. At turns song, prayer, and lamentation, Murray’s poems speak to the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow and the dream of racial justice and equality.
About the Author
Pauli Murray (1910–1985) was born in Baltimore and raised in Durham, North Carolina. The first African American woman to receive a doctorate of law at Yale, her name now graces one of Yale University’s new colleges. She is the author of Song in a Weary Throat, her posthumous memoir.
A people’s transatlantic epic.... It presents a major addition to the available corpus of poetry by Black women other than Gwendolyn Brooks or Margaret Walker written between the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s. Dark Testament is a touchstone to understand how a unique and powerful African-American sense of self came into being. Perhaps more so than any source besides her diaries, Murray’s poems testify to her brave rebellion, and to the identities—transracial, transgender, transhistorical—that are more visionary now than ever.
— Ed Pavlic, Poetry