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A BLACK MAN TALKS OF REAPING, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

Arna Bontemps was an African American poet and novelist who was born on October 13, 1902, in Alexandria, Louisiana. He was a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance literary movement and is known for his work as a historian of African American culture. "A Black Man Talks of Reaping" is one of Bontemps' most famous poems, published in 1932.


The poem was written during the early 20th century when African American sharecroppers in the South were facing harsh conditions due to the agricultural system of sharecropping and discrimination. Bontemps himself grew up in Louisiana and was familiar with the experiences of black farmers in the region. The poem is also reflective of the broader cultural and political movements of the time, including the rise of the civil rights movement and the struggle for racial equality.


"A Black Man Talks of Reaping" is a poem that explores the experiences of an African American sharecropper. The poem begins with the speaker describing himself as a grim reaper in the cotton fields, working tirelessly to gather the crop. Throughout the poem, the speaker reflects on the grueling labor involved in sharecropping, the oppressive heat, and the lack of opportunity for upward mobility. However, the speaker also expresses a sense of pride in his work and solidarity with his fellow workers.


The poem is structured in seven stanzas, each with four lines, and uses a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB. The poem's form is characterized by its consistent rhyme scheme and four-line stanzas. This creates a sense of structure and organization in the poem, which mirrors the discipline and routine of the sharecropper's work. Additionally, the use of imagery, such as the comparison of the speaker to the grim reaper, adds to the poem's overall impact.

Poetic Elements: 

The poem employs several poetic devices, including metaphor, imagery, and allusion. For example, the comparison of the speaker to the grim reaper adds a layer of symbolism to the poem, highlighting the harsh reality of the sharecropper's life. The use of vivid imagery, such as the biting flies and oppressive heat, helps to create a sense of realism and immediacy in the poem.


"A Black Man Talks of Reaping" is a powerful and poignant poem that offers a glimpse into the struggles of African American sharecroppers during the early 20th century. The poem's use of vivid imagery and metaphor helps to convey the harsh realities of sharecropping, while also expressing a sense of resilience and pride in the face of adversity. Overall, the poem is a testament to the strength and determination of African American workers, and its relevance continues to resonate today as a reflection of the ongoing struggle for social and economic justice.

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