Anita Scott Coleman
Anita Scott Coleman
Anita Scott Coleman

By Brian Kim Period 4

Anita Scott Coleman was an influential black poet and writer who helped contribute greatly to the Harlem Renaissance. She was born in 1890 in Guayamas, Sonora, Mexico. After a short period of time of her birth, her family moved to the U.S Southwest. There, Anita grew up on a ranch where she then grew up to teach school at New Mexico Teachers College. She gave this career up in 1916 when she married James Harold Coleman, a printer and photographer ("Past").

At this time, she started to take a path more oriented towards her writing, althought she did have four kids and began a boarding school in Los Angeles where she taught. She never was a resident of the Harlem community but expressed many ideas and themes that were consistent with it and was an influential writer in it. To start her writing carrer off, she published thirteen short stories in New Mexico, one of them called "The Little Grey House" which was the most famous of these pieces ("Past").

Anita Coleman continued to publish a collection of stories, poems, and essays throughout her life. Some of these were able to appear in national magazines such as The Half-Century Magazine, The Competitor, The Crisis, The Messenger, and Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life in the 1920s and 1930s.These works demonstrated many of the ideas of blacks in the Harlem Renaissance. They became an inspiration for many of the Harlem Renaissance writers. Many of these works showed her ideas of racial pride, support for black women, and the resistance against white persecutions of the time. Much of them were also centered in the Southwest United States where she still lived. She died in 1960, leaving behind a trail of writing that exemplified and vivified the literature factor of the Harlem Renaissance (Champion 77-78).

The Shining Parlor

It was a drab street
A white man's street . . .
Jammed with automobiles
Streetcars and trucks;
Bee-hived with fruit vendors' stalls,
Real estate concerns, meat shops,
Dental clinics, and soft drink stands.
It was a drab street
A white man's street . . .
But it held the shining parlor--
A boot-black booth,
Commandeered by a black man,
Who spent much time smiling out
Upon the hub-bub of the thoroughfare.
Ever . . . serenely smiling . . .
With a brush and soiled rag in his hands.
Often . . . white patrons wait for
Their boots to be "shined,"
Wondering the while
At the wonder--
Of the black man's smile.
Analysis:
In this poem is almost a serious voice that would be used to define things. This poem contains a very definitive yet questioning tone to it as the author attempts to show the white street and its many things within it. The questioning tone comes when they come to "wonder at the black man's smile" (21). This comes in an act of black pride from Coleman as she shows the white people still wondorous of the black people's workings. This serious tone may also be symbolic of the seriousness of the issue of segregation and equality.

Anita Scott Coleman was a very influential writer during the Harlem Renaissance and carried its ideas in her writing. One of the concepts of the Harlem Renaissance was the racial pride of the blacks themselves. Although they were persecuted and segregated in a white-oriented society, they still thought of themselves as great people. Coleman describes the black pride through the black man referenced in the poem. The white people in the poem were "wondering the while at the wonder of the black man's smile" (19-21). By using the black man as a metaphor to the rest of the black population, she shows how the black people as a whole continue working and smiling despite white segregation. It demonstrates her belief of the blacks and their rights, and how they can stand strong despite racism.

Coleman almost seems to insult the white people by calling a street full of white people a "drab street" (1). This again demonstrates her views of black pride. She seems to be extremely proud of her own heritage and seems to poke fun of the white people and how "drab" they are compared to the black people. This seems to be also consistent with the Harlem Renaissance, which was filled with black people bringing in new ideas and forms while the white people were simply observers and consumers of this movement. She also refers to the white people and "their boots to be 'shined'" (18). It's interesting that she put "shining" in quotation marks, which serves as a metaphor to how they're being shined. Although their shoes may be shined physically, Coleman refers to their actual personalities as not "shined" since they are segregating.
Works Cited
Champion, Laurie, and Emmanuel S. Nelson. American Women Writers, 1900-1945: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.
"Coleman, Anita Scott (1890-1960) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed." | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aaw/coleman-anita-scott-1890-1960>.
"Coleman, Anita Scott." LeS DOiGtS BLeUs - Bibliothèque Poétique - Poetry Library. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <http://poems.lesdoigtsbleus.free.fr/id151.htm>.