Sterling Brown devoted his life as a writer to a development of an authentic African American literature and to a career as an educator of African American students, especially at Howard University, where he taught for 40 years. He was among the first to identify folklore as central to the black aesthetic. Brown published his first book of poetry, Southern Road, in 1932, but, although the book was well received, Brown met critical and publishing resistance to his next collection. Discouraged, Brown turned his energies to producing a steady stream of essays, reviews, and sketches about African American life. Negro Poetry and Drama and The Negro in American Fiction, both published in 1938, are seminal studies; and his anthology of African American literature, The Negro Caravan (1941), defined the field as a scholarly and academic discipline. The Collected Poems (1980), which contains many early poems never before published, assures Brown's fame as a poet at the same time that it serves as a painful reminder of a gift that was stunted because it was ignored. A first-rate narrative poet and a master of the folk idiom, Brown was, for many, a bridge between nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American literature. He is a writer who helped to define African American literature and experience for blacks and whites alike.