Specific facts about Countee Cullen's early life are few. That he was born on May 30, 1903 is largely the only fact upon which many scholars can agree. Among the cities in which he was speculated to have been born are New York City, Baltimore, Maryland and Louisville, Kentucky. When he was nine, a woman named Mrs. Porter who was his guardian, brought Countee Porter to Harlem and raised him there until her death.
They attended Salem Methodist Episcopal Church where the Pastor was Reverend Frederick A. Cullen, who would eventually become president of the Harlem branch of the NAACP. After the woman died, young Countee was adopted by the Cullen's.
Reverend Cullen used his influence to enroll Countee in the prestigious De Witt Clinton High School in Manhattan, where Countee was one of the few black students. At De Witt Clinton Cullen excelled as a student becoming a member of the honor society and editor of the school newspaper. Cullen finished high school in 1922 and immediately enrolled in New York University where he earned his Bachelors in 1925; he was named to Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to achieve his Masters from Harvard in 1926.
Cullen's passion for writing poetry that adhered to strict literary rules won him numerous literary prizes. Among his other accomplishments, he contributed to Harpers, The Nation, The American Mercury, Scribner's, Survey Graphic, The Crisis, Opportunity and Folio. In 1925, he published the collection Color. It was no doubt his academic opportunity and conservative upbringing helped shape his artistic sensibility.
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