INSCRIBED BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN GARDNER, ONE OF AMERICA'S FIRST WESTERN BLACK POETS
GARDNER, Benjamin Franklin. Black. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton, 1933. Small octavo (5-1/2 by 7-3/4 inches), original black cloth, original dust jacket. $1200.
First edition of Gardner's critically praised first and only book of poetry, inscribed by him, "In appreciation of a very Pleasant and Profitable Acquaintance. Best wishes, T— P— From Benj. F. Gardner 10-8-38 (On a train, enroute from Grand Island to Omaha, Nebr.)."
Gardner, the son of enslaved parents, traveled widely across America and worked as a Pullman porter while crafting the 60 poems in Black. In poems such as "Courage," he attacks the brutality of racism, and in the couplets of "Plea," he challenges the "cruel bars of segregation." In "Ebony Beauty," Gardner writes of African American women whose beauty recalls "queens that ruled along the Nile," and in "Lord, I'm Coming," evokes the inspiration of African American spirituals. On publication of Black in 1933, the New York Times praised Gardner for his "sureness of ear… The secret of these rhythmic liberties is… infectious." One of America's first western black poets, along with William Lightfoot Visscher and John Mason Brewer, Franklin worked as a porter on the Union Pacific at the time of publication, travelling between his home in Ogden, Utah and Cheyenne, Wyoming (Literary History of the American West, 199n). Blockson 4873. With laid-in blank "Memorandum" leaf from the desk of the recipient, Thomas R. Pendell, of Chicago's "Methodist Book Concern."
A fine inscribed copy.