Tolson Graduated With Honors From Pennsylvania's Lincoln University, In 1924. He And His Wife Moved To Marshall, Texas, Where He Taught Speech And English At Wiley College And Mentored Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) Founder, James Farmer, Among Others. Tolson, Wiley College And Its History-Making Debate Team of 1935, Are The Subjects Of The Oprah Winfrey- Produced, Denzel Washington-Directed Film, The Great Debaters.
Tolson Received His Master's Degree From Columbia University In 1940 And Began Teaching At Langston University In Langston, Oklahoma, In 1947. That Same Year, Liberia Declared Him Its Poet Laureate. He Entered Local Politics And Would Go On To Serve Three Terms As Mayor Of Guthrie, Oklahoma From 1954 to 1960.
As A Writer, Melvin Tolson Began Creating Poetry From 1930, On. In 1941 "Dark Symphony," Often Considered His Greatest Work, Was Published In Atlantic Monthly. In 1944 He Published His First Poetry Collection, Rendezvous With America. The Washington Tribune Hired Tolson To Write A Weekly Column, "Cabbage And Caviar," After He Left His Teaching Position At Wiley In The Late 1940's.
In 1965, Melvin Tolson's Final Work, Harlem Gallery, Was Published. The Poem Consists Of Several Sections, Each Beginning With A Letter Of The Greek Alphabet. The Poem Concentrates On Black Life, And Is A Drastic Departure From His First Writings. The Poems He Wrote In New York Were Published (Posthumously) In 1979, As A Gallery of Harlem Portraits, A Mixture Of Various Styles As Well As Free Verse.
Tolson Died After Cancer Surgery In Dallas, Texas, In 1966. He Is Buried In Guthrie, OK.
"In Order For Black History To Live, We Must Continue To Breathe Life Into It." -- Hubert Gaddy, Jr.
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