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Robert Hayden

Robert Hayden

African American poet, essayist and educator Robert Haydon (1913-1980) was brought up by foster parents. Born to Ruth and Asa Sheffey, named Asa Bundy Sheffey in Detroit, Michigan, but who separated before his birth. Neighbours Sue Ellen Westerfield and William Hayden, took him in and he grew up in the Detroit. His childhood was tulmultuous due to fights and beatings plus competition from his birth mother for his affection. He had severe visual problems which meant he couldn't take part in sports like other children and he suffered from depression. "Those Winter Sundays" is a poem written in 1962 is about the father/son relationship – in this instance foster father. He recalls memories of his father, realizing that despite the distance between them there was a kind of love, real and intangible, shown by the father's actions and he feels remorse.
He was English professor at Fisk University. He is famous for writing about cultural themes and African American history. From 1976-78 he was what became known as the US Poet Laureate. He was the first African American to hold that office.

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