In 1918, Mrs. Porter died. Cullen was subsequently adopted by Reverend Frederick Ashbury Cullen, minister at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, and thus Cullen was raised a Methodist. Throughout his unstable childhood his birth mother never attempted to contact Cullen, and would not attempt to do so until sometime in the 1920s, after he had become famous.
Cullen won many poetry contests from a very young age and often had his winning work reprinted. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, mainly consisting of all white, male students. He became Vice President of his class during his senior year, was also involved in the school magazine as an editor, and was affiliated with the Arista Honor Society.
After completing his secondary education, Cullen attended New York University. While an undergraduate, he published works in various literary magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, and Poetry. Also, his writing exceptional faculties were acknowledged with prizes from The Crisis, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity of the National Urban League. He graduated in 1925 as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and was also initiated into Phi Beta Kappa honors society. Soon afterwards, he produced his first volume entitled "Color" and pursued graduate studies at Harvard University.
In April 1928, Cullen married Nina Yolande Du Bois, daughter of the famous W. E. B. Du Bois. Two months after the wedding, Cullen left for Europe with his father and Harold Jackman; his wife followed after a month. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1928.
Nina Yolande Du Bois divorced Cullen two years later, saying that he told her that he was sexually attracted to men.
In 1940, he married Ida Mae Roberson and they enjoyed a content marriage.
On January 9, 1946, Cullen unexpectedly died of uremic poisoning and complications from high blood pressure. After his death, for a few years, Cullen was honored as the most celebrated African American writer. A collection of some of his best work was also arranged in On These I Stand.
"The Singing Man Who Must Be Reckoned With": Private Desire and Public Responsibility in the Poetry of Countee Cullen
Dec 22, 2000; His lyric gift was incontestable and, indeed, exceptional. But his poetry has none of McKay's fiery virility, and the treasures...