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Davis, Frank Marshall

Frank Marshall Davis

Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987), a poet, journalist, and lifelong leftist, reentered the news in 2008 when his friendship with a young Hawaiian, Barack Obama, was employed to slur the future President’s political past.  Obama’s memory of Davis in his memoir Dreams from My Father (1995) is less than worshipful, however: “It made me smile, thinking back on Frank and his old Black Power, dashiki self.  In some ways he was as incurable as my mother, as certain in his faith, living in the same sixties time warp that Hawaii had created.”  Davis’s literary career was in fact more deeply rooted in the Chicago of the 1930s than in the Hawaii of the 1960s.  After studying journalism at Kansas State University, he moved to the Windy City in 1927 and then wrote and edited for African American newspapers including the Chicago Whip and the Chicago Evening Bulletin.  He met Margaret Walker, Richard Wright, and other aspiring poets and novelists and joined three of the core institutions of the black Chicago Renaissance of the Great Depression: the Federal Writers’ Project, the South Side Writers Group, and the U.S. Communist Party.  In a harsh climate for book publishing, not least for black poets, he succeeded in bringing out several volumes of poetry: Black Man’s Verse (1935), I Am the American Negro (1937), and Through Sepia Eyes (1938).  Captivated by what he called “the new revolutionary style [of] free verse,” Davis developed a poetic voice marked by both technical experimentation and fierce racial pride.  Davis moved to Hawaii with his second wife in 1948, and there wrote a weekly column, “Frank-ly Speaking,” for the Honolulu Record, a newspaper published by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  On the evidence of his FBI file, nearly 700 pages compiled between 1944 and 1963, Bureau agents read this column closely and faithfully, systematically comparing its contents to the “Communist Party line.”

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Davis, Frank Marshall

FBI documents studying Frank Marshall Davis.




Material is in the public domain.

text, 601 PDFs, 400 ppi



Davis, Frank Marshall