by Becki Baucom
Gladys May Casely Hayford (May 11, 1904 - 1950) (aka Aquah LaLuah, her African name) was an African poet who wrote in English.
She was born in Axim, Gold Coast, West Africa on May 11, 1904, to Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford, a prestigious lawyer, and Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford who was the founder of the Girls' Vocational School in Freedom, Sierra Leone. Gladys went to college and could speak fluent English and Krio, her native language. Galdys was an accomplished poet, writer, musician, dramatist, painter, and story-teller. She lived in Freedom, Sierra Leone for much of her life with her parents. Gladys eventually died of blackwater fever in 1950.
Gladys was an influential poet during the Harlem Renaissance because she wasn't afraid to be herself,and express herself through her writing. Creating something new and innovative became an important theme that was shown throughout the Roaring 20s.
Gladys was a lesbian and she expressed her feelings through her poems, which in many cases made the public see her differently, it just brought more trouble and racism to her. Nevertheless her poems became well known by millions. Because of her honesty and her willingness to break the status quo, her poems are still remembered today. Poems such as "Creation"(1926), "Nativity"(1927), "Rainy Season Love Song"(1927), and "The Serving Girl"(1941), all broke new ground in showing a way to independent writing.
Dawn for the rich, the artistic and the wise,
Is beauty splashed on canvas of the skies,
The brushes being the clouds that float the blue,
Dipped in the breeze for paint, and washed by dew.
But dawn to those who bathe the night in tears,
Squeeze sustenance from hard unyielding years,
Is full of strange imaginings and fears.
The dawn renews the terror of the day
Where harassing uncertainties hold sway;
And pain held in surcease through brief hours of rest
Roars up its head in its unceasing quest
To wear out body, brain and mind and soul
Till death is a resolve, and death a goal.
For those life holds no beauty, dawn no light,
For day is hopeless, dawn is struck with blight.
In "Dawn" there is obvious evidence that Gladys has written about the black society's stuggle through every day of racism. Dawn is a symbol of the brand new day and one more day that could be glorious for the superior but is another dreadful day for the less superior, as seen in "The dawn renews the terror of the day".
There are many symbols that Gladys uses to describe the everyday life of the African American stuggle in the Harlem Renaissence, such as, "harassing uncertainties hold sway; And pain held in sucrease through breif hours of rest", the racism never stops. The peom shows that the African American society dont just brush off the insults, they take it to heart and sometimes cry themselves to sleep, dread the next day to do it all over again, and the emotional stress that it puts on them.
In relation to the Harlem Renaissence, this is what happened everyday of their lifes, just dreading the next day. I think Gladys wrote this poem to show what was really going on in the minds of the victiums, the pain they go through everyday. Gladys is once again letting her feeling show through her work and some may not like it but as long as she is showing her self through the poems and telling the true side of things, it will be inspiration to thise who read hopefully inspiring people to take a stand and change the status quo. Often those that were suffering through the Harlem Renaissence never thought that things would get better and that is how Gladys wrote it. She made it sad, making it seem like there is no hope, whish was the case for many during the time, therefore it shows the real situation that the African Americans were in.
- Take um So. Freetown, Sierra Leone: New Era Press, 1948.
- Mother and Daughter: Memoirs and poems (by Adelaide Casely-Hayford & Gladys Casely-Hayford; edited by Yema Lucilda Hunter). Freetown, Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone University Press, 1983.
- Aberjhani, and Sandra L. West. Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <
- "Great West African Poems." HubPages. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.
- "Laterally Creative - an African treasure gladys casely hayford biography historical african women writers, books - Casely-Hayford." Laterally Creative - African women writers, books - Casely-Hayford. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.
- Gladys May Casely-Hayford (Aquah LaLuah) (1904-1950) at Modern American Poetry.
- This article uses Creative Commons licensed text from "Gladys May Casely Hayford - a Cultural Luminary of Her Day", Harlem Renaissance Poets Wiki, Wikispaces, Web, Jan. 12, 2011.