The poet William Waring Cuney (1906–1976) hails from an
illustrious Afro-Texan family whose members include the charismatic politician
Norris Wright Cuney (1846–1898) and his daughter, Maud Cuney Hare (1874–1936),
the concert pianist and writer. Waring Cuney’s maternal line, after whom he was
named, was equally eminent.
Cuney was born and raised in Washington, DC, just a few
blocks from Howard University where three generations of his family studied.
Despite his privileged upbringing among the city’s Black elite, Cuney embraced
his family’s passionate commitment to racial uplift and civil rights; in
exploring the relationship between African Americans and their environment, he
was thus able to transmute into two books of poetry a broad cross section of
African American life; his poems and songs explore the lives of jazz musicians,
athletes, domestic and railway workers, women and children, blues singers,
prisoners, sharecroppers, and soldiers. In addition, Cuney published in all the
major Harlem Renaissance journals and anthologies alongside the luminaries of
the period, many of whom were good friends.
Through 100 of his best poems, many never before collected or
published, and a detailed biographical monograph, Images in the River: The Life
and Work of Waring Cuney introduces readers to a newly recovered Harlem
Renaissance poet, and to the history of a remarkable American family.
Cynthia Davis is a professor of
English at San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas. She received her PhD from the
University of Maryland. Her research and teaching interests include African American
Modernism, African American military history, and the Black Arts Movement.
Verner D. Mitchell
is a professor of African American Literature in the Department of English at
the University of Memphis. He received his PhD in English from Rutgers
University and previously taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy. His research
and teaching interests include the Harlem Renaissance, Black women writers,
African Americans in the military, and the Black Arts Movement.