Born in New York City, Countee Cullen was separated from his mother in early childhood. He was raised in part by the Reverend Frederick Cullen, a Methodist minister. In high school, Cullen was already praised for his poetry. The poem "Life's Rendezvous" was published in a high school literary magazine and won first prize in a citywide contest. Educated at New York University and Harvard University, Cullen worked as an assistant editor on the Urban League's Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, writing a monthly literary column. His many awards for poetry included the first Harmon Prize for distinguished achievement in literature by a black writer, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He taught junior high school in New York City until his death.