Cullen: Fairmount’s Connection to the Harlem Renaissance

I have written about this elsewhere before but it is worth repeating — about the Somerset County, Maryland connection to the Harlem Renaissance, specifically the Fairmount connection.  I ran across this connection by browsing online, finding the Rev. Frederick Asbury Cullen (sometimes spelled Asbury, sometimes Ashbury).  Online was found:

Frederick Ashbury Cullen (1868-1946), minister and Harlem civil rights leader, was born in Fairmount (Somerset County), Maryland, the son of Isaac and Emmeline Williams Cullen, who had been slaves.  The youngest of eleven children, Cullen grew up in poverty, his father having passed away two months after his birth.  He moved to Baltimore with his mother at age twelve and worked for a physician while attending Maryland State Normal School (later Towson University).  He then taught public school in Fairmount for two years before entering Morgan College (later Morgan State University), an Episcopalian seminary in Baltimore; between his first and second year of studies, he also worked as a waiter in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  He had received a preacher’s license while in Fairmount and was ordained in 1900. …  Cullen married Carolyn Belle Mitchell, a soprano and pianist based in Baltimore.

— from Harlem Renaissance Lives from the African American National Biography, by Henry Louis Gates, 2009

Rev. Cullen pastored at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the largest churches in Harlem at that time.  The prominent poet of Harlem — poet, novelist and playwright Countee Cullen (1903-1946) was the adopted son of Rev. and Mrs. Frederick Asbury Cullen.  You can read more about both at the Armistad Research Center website.  I had not seen a photograph of Rev. Cullen but there is one on that website and apparently more archived at the Armistad Research Center.  Could it be that Rev. Cullen served at Centennial Church (the structure has been torn down in recent years)?  The small photo below is of Countee and the Rev. Cullen on camels in Egypt.  Also shown is the Centennial Church of Upper Fairmount, and a photo of poet Countee Cullen.

I have not read many of the poems by Countee Cullen, but I did run across this one, I am guessing addressed to that of a white woman, perhaps a slaveholder?  I do not know.  But this tongue-in-cheek poem is among my favorites:

cullen poemcuc0004Centennial ChurchContee Cullen












— Linda Duyer

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