Thursday, February 2, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: February 2, 1861 - Joseph Seamon Cotter


Image from www.blackpast.org

From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Joseph Seamon Cotter, poet and educator, was born on February 2, 1861, near Bardstown, Kentucky, to Micheil J. Cotter and Martha Vaugh. His father was a Scotch-Irishman and his mother the daughter of an African slave. Mother and infant moved to Louisville when Cotter was four months old. Cotter, who learned to read by the age of four, left the third grade in 1869 to help his mother support the family by such jobs as picking up rags, bricklaying, tobacco cutting, and prize fighting. He developed boxing skills in defending himself at work against older boys. William T. Peyton, a Louisville educator, discovered Cotter's ability to write poetry and persuaded him to quit boxing and return to school. Cotter attended Louisville's first black night school in 1883, and after taking two five-month courses earned a high school diploma and was qualified to teach. He taught at Cloverdale, outside Louisville, during 1885-87 and at a local private school during 1887-89. Cotter then began instructing in the Louisville public school system at Western Colored School. He became principal of the Paul Dunbar School, named for the poet who had visited him in 1894 and had become his close friend. He then served as principal at Samuel Taylor Coleridge School from 1911 until his retirement in 1942. Cotter became a member of the Louisville Board of Education in 1938.

Cotter's first volume of poetry was A Rhyming (1895). His Links of Friendship (1898) contained a variety of ballads, lyrics, and children's poems. It also contained his replies to the work of Paul Dunbar -- " Answer to Dunbar's `After a Visit"' and " Answer To Dunbar's `A Choice"' -- as well as one of Cotter's better-known poems, " Sequel To `The Pied Piper of Hamelin'?" Cotter demonstrated his mastery of black dialect, learned from Dunbar, in the poems of A White Song and a Black One (1909), and in his one work of fiction, Negro Tales (1912). This book is thought to be one of only four works of fiction by black authors published between 1906 and 1922. Cotter had worked fifty years in the public school system when his Collected Poems (1938), which also used dialect, appeared in print. His final collection was Negroes and Others at Work and Play (1947). Cotter also wrote Caleb; A Play in Four Acts (1903).

Cotter married Maria F. Fox on July 22, 1891; they had three children: Florence; Joseph, Jr., who was also a poet; and Leonides. Cotter died on March 14, 1949, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Louisville.

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Cotter, Joseph S. Collected Poems of Joseph S. Cotter, Sr. New York [N.Y.]: Henry Harrison, 1938. Print. SOLINET/ASERL Cooperative Microfilming Project (NEH PA-24147) ; SOL MN09826.05 KUK.
PS3505.O862 A17 1938, Special Collections Research Center

Cotter, Joseph S. A White Song and a Black One. Louisville, Ky.: Bradley & Gilbert, 1909. Print. SOLINET/ASERL Cooperative Microfilming Project (NEH PA-24147) ; SOL MN09826.06 KUK.
B 2002-43, Young Library - Periodicals Desk Microfilm

Cotter, Joseph S. Links of Friendship. Louisville, Ky.: Bradley & Gilbert, 1898. Print.
811 C827, Special Collections Research Center

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