Countee Cullen Spoke of Baltimore

Countee Cullen  was believed to have been born on this day in 1903 (although, some historians say he was born on March 30, 1903).  Some accounts list Cullen’s birthplace as Baltimore, while others list it as Harlem, New York.image

In any event, one can assume, from Cullen’s writings, that he had an intimate understanding of Baltimore…

So, in honor of the birthday of the great poet, Countee Cullen, I ask that you read what he had to say in his poem, “Incident.”


Once riding in old Baltimore, 

Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, 

I saw a Baltimorean 

Keep looking straight at me. 

Now I was eight and very small, 

And he was no whit bigger, 

And so I smiled, but he poked out 

His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’

I saw the whole of Baltimore 

From May until December; 

Of all the things that happened there 

That’s all that I remember.

by Countee Cullen


Walter wrote well in high school and one teacher, who recognized his talent but also knew he was going to drop out, told him to keep on writing, no matter what—“It’s what you do,” she said. Walter did drop out of Stuyvesant High School, though they now claim him as a graduate (which Walter always found funny). At the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the Army. Years later, after his safe return home and while working a construction job, Walter would remember this teacher’s advice. He started writing again…and he didn’t stop.