Melvin B. Tolson
[ 1898-1966 ]


     from Humanities Texas

James Farmer talks
about Melvin Tolson

in a 1986 public
conversation at the
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library

     Harlem Gallery:
An Advertisement and User’s Manual

Raymond Nelson
Editor with Rita Dove of

"Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson

   Harlem Gallery:
a review by

Gwendolyn Brooks
Negro Digest
September 1965

This short but cogent review is below:

From the Poetry Foundation:

     We include below links to three Tolson poetry selections, one review, plus a link to Allen Tate's early critical commentary on Tolson. Additional Tolson items can be found on the Poetry Foundation through their search feature.

Many Tolson scholars reference Allen Tate, as well as the Lorenzo Turner review.

M.B. Tolson, poem
July 1950

"Libretto for the
Republic of Liberia"


Allen Tate : "Opinion"
Preface to
"Libretto for the
Republic of Liberia"


M.B. Tolson
Sept 1951

E. & O.E.

M.B. Tolson, review
Feb 1954

Claude McKay's Art:
Review of
Selected Poems
of Claude McKay


M.B. Tolson
Oct 1952

The Man
from Halicarnassus

        Lorenzo Turner
June 1955

Words for a Vast Music
Review of
Libretto for the
Republic of Liberia

                walcott on melvin b. tolson
Negro Digest 
Dec 1972 via googlebooks

Ronald Walcott

Ellison, Gordone, Tolson:
Some Notes on the Blues, Style & Space

Walcott's article begins on page 4,
 but the section on Tolson begins on page 26.

Of Interest from
"Over 18,269,000 Old New York State Historical Newspaper Pages online"

After describing the difficulties of writing honestly, Richard Wright
recommends five books including Tolson's Rendezvous with America:

“Richard Wright Describes the Birth of Black Boy”

New York Post, November 30, 1944

     Endangered Black History:

Includes images of Langston
and of Tolson as Mayor,

plus a short video on
Tolson by Paige Dillard.

Ken Tolson is President of
The Melvin B. Tolson Foundation

     from National Public Radio:

Grandson Tells of 'Debaters' Coach Tolson's Legacy

links to an audio recording and transcript of December 31, 2007

from the website:
Ken Tolson is the real-life grandson of Melvin B. Tolson, whose work as an educator, mentor and poet is highlighted in the new film The Great Debaters. The story gives moviegoers a look at the life of Tolson, and the all-black debate team that historically defeated an all-white team in the 1930s.

Melvin Tolson's Grandson Discusses His Legacy
and links to a recording from December 24, 2007

from the website:
The Great Debaters is based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas. In 1935, Tolson inspired and led the university's first African-American debate team to compete in the national finals and beat the University of Southern California. His grandson, Ken Tolson, shares his grandfather's story and Melvin Tolson's impact on society.

Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949

   The entire text of this classic anthology is now available online via  It's available in several formats.  Selecting 'Read Online' will give you a side by side image of the book.

The Poetry of the Negro, 1746 - 1949
A Definitive Anthology
edited by
Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps