Chapter 9: The
Paul P. Reuben
| A Brief Biography |
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Source: UP of Florida
Fiction"On Being Black," New Republic,32 (Nov.1922):244-246; "On Being Domestic," Opportunity,1 (Aug.1923):234; "Miss Kenny's Marriage," Smart Set,72 (Sept.1923):73-80; "The Stone Rebounds," Opportunity,1 (Sept.1923):277-278; "Cynthia Goes to the Prom," Opportunity (Nov.1923):342-343; "Vignettes of the Dusk," Opportunity (Jan.1924):19-20; "A Cholo Romance," Opportunity (June 1924):177-181; "The Voodoo's Revenge," Opportunity (July 1925):209-213.
Nonfiction"The New Negro Faces America," Current History,17 (Feb.1923) :786-788; "The Negro Exodus from the South," Current History,18 (Sept. 1923):942-944; "The Black City," Messenger,6 (Jan.1924):13-14; "Imperator Africanus, Marcus Garvey: Menace or Promise?,"
BookTropic Death. New York: Boni&Liveright,1926.
Other"City Love," in The American Caravan, edited by Van Wyck Brooks,et al. New York: Macaulay,1927. 485-493.
In Search of Asylum: The Later Writings of Eric Walrond. Edited by Louis J. Parascandola and Carl A. Wade. Foreword by Joan Stewart. UP of Florida, 2011.
Selected Bibliography 1980-Present
Agatucci, Cora. "Eric Walrond (1898-1966)." in Nelson, Emmanuel S. ed. African American Authors, 1745-1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.
Lewis, David Levering. ed. The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. NY: Penguin Books, 1994.
Parascandola, Louis J. ed. 'Winds Can Wake Up the Dead': An Eric Walrond Reader. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1998.
Witalec, Janet, and Trudier Harris-Lopez. eds. Harlem Renaissance: A Gale Critical Companion. Detroit: Gale, 2002.
A Student Project by Kerri Shaffer
Eric Walrond is an important literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Biographer Jay R. Berry points out that as a protégé of Charles S. Johnson, the Urban League's national director of research and investigations and as editor of Opportunity magazine, Walrond makes numerous contributions to the Harlem Renaissance, and should, therefore, be remembered and studied (296).
Eric Walrond was born in Georgetown, British Guyana, in 1898. His mother, born in Barbados, moved to Guyana after marrying Walrond's father. He lived in Guyana until he was eight years old, at which time his parents' marital problems led him into "an almost nomadic existence." (Berry, 296) Walrond's father deserted him and his mother in 1906, so the two moved to a small village in Barbados to live with relatives (Berry, 296). While in Barbados, Walrond began his education at St. Stephen's Boys' School. About four years later, in approximately 1910, the mother and son went to the Panama Canal Zone in search of Walrond's father. During this time period thousands of West Indians and Guyanese were working to dig the canal (Berry, 296). Eric and his mother were able to locate his father; however, reconciliation between the parents was unsuccessful. Walrond and his mother settled in Colón, where he completed his education from 1913-1916, "becoming bilingual and 'thoroughly exposed to Spanish culture.'" (Berry, 296)
Trained as a secretary and stenographer, Walrond worked as a clerk in the Health Department of the Canal Commission at Cristobal. Between 1916 and 1918 he began his journalistic career working as a general reporter, court reporter, and sportswriter for the Panama Star-Herald (Berry, 296-297).
In 1918, Walrond moved to New York and enrolled in literature and writing courses at City College, where he attended for three years, and Columbia University, where he attended for one year (Lewis, 764). During this time, Walrond held a number of clerical and secretarial jobs including working as a stenographer in the British Recruiting Mission, and as secretary to the superintendent of the Broad Street Hospital (Berry, 297). During his various quests for employment, Walrond came into contact with racism and discrimination, experiences that were previously very limited to him. His feelings of frustration are evident in his early writing, as is illustrated in "On Being Black" (New Republic, 1922), his first American published story (Berry, 297).
Walrond finally got a job in 1921 working as editor of the newspaper Brooklyn and Long Island Informer. He maintained his position until 1923 when he became interested in Marcus Garvey's movement. Garvey made Walrond an associate editor of the UNIA's weekly newspaper, Negro World (Berry, 297). While working with the UNIA, Walrond also published articles in various periodicals and journals. Some of his works include, "The Negro Exodus from the South" (Current History, 1923), "The Black City" (Messenger, 1924), and "Imperator Africanus, Marcus Garvey: Menace or Promise?" (Independent, 1925).
Berry discusses Walrond's most significant article, "The New Negro Faces America." (Current History, 1923) In this essay, Walrond critiques three major Black leaders and their philosophies and also expresses his ideas about the New Negro movement (297). Walrond says that Booker T. Washington represents "old style leadership." "He criticizes Du Bois and the NAACP for seeking only 'adequate political representation' . . .and views Du Bois as having a superiority complex that leaves him alienated from the black masses" (Berry, 297). Walrond perceives Marcus Garvey to have the most leadership potential, but criticizes his love for "pomp and theatrics" (Berry 297). The essay shows Walrond's growing frustration with Garvey, and soon after it is published, he leaves the UNIA.
Walrond had been publishing short stories throughout the 1920s as part of his involvement in the Harlem Renaissance. In 1923 he published four stories: "On Being a Domestic" (Opportunity, 1923), "Miss Kenny's Marriage" (Smart Set, 1923), "The Stone Rebounds" (Opportunity, 1923), and "Cynthia Goes to the Prom" (Opportunity, 1923). Walrond's work had not gone unnoticed by others involved in the Harlem Renaissance. Charles S. Johnson recognized Walrond's value as a "suave agent of the arts-and-letters movement" and hired him to be the editor and business manager for the Opportunity from 1925 to 1927 (Lewis, 765).
Walrond's early stories focus on the racial situations in New York City. In 1924, he changes his focus to a presentation of life in the American tropics (Berry, 298). His works during this time include, "Vignettes of the Dusk" (Opportunity, 1924), "A Cholo Romance" (Opportunity, 1924), and "The Voodoo's Revenge" (Opportunity, 1925) for which he won third prize in the Opportunity's short story contest in 1925 (Berry, 299).
The work for which Walrond is most remembered is his novel, Tropic Death, published in 1926. Many believe that it marked a milestone in the Renaissance, and compare it to Jean Toomer's Cane (Lewis, 765). In his book, Walrond experiments with dialect as he recreates "unfamiliar and marginal Creole cultures." (Lewis, 765)
For his efforts, Walrond is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and other funds from writer Zona Gale (Lewis, 765). In 1928, Walrond went abroad to write a novel about the Panama Canal, but never finished his book. When he left the United States in 1927, he traveled Europe extensively. He spent his last days living in obscurity in London, until his death in 1966 (Lewis, 765).
Walrond's contemporaries held him in high esteem. Although Tropic Death did not sell very well, Du Bois and Langston Hughes gave the book favorable reviews (Berry, 300). Berry points out that most contemporary critics tend to ignore Walrond, and he adds that critical recognition is long overdue (300). When researching the Harlem Renaissance, Eric Walrond is often listed among an illustrious list of famous authors including, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, and Rudolph Fisher; however, he is only referred to as an influence on these other writers, and his works are rarely discussed. Eric Walrond enhanced the African-American culture through his literary accomplishments and his perspectives on the New Negro movement, for this he deserves more critical attention and recognition.
Berry, Jay R. "Eric Walrond." Dictionary of Literary Biography: African-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940. Ed., Harris, Trudier & Thadius M. Davis. 51 Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987. 296-300.
Lewis, David Levering. ed. The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.
MLA Style Citation of this Web Page
Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 9: Eric Walrond " PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW URL: http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap9/walrond.html (provide page date or date of your login).
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