It's a fair truism that black poetry is best understood from the vantage of black experience and that the essential validity of ""high art"" forms derives in some way from their relation to spontaneous or popular expressions. Henderson's anthology combines the two in an effort to demonstrate a cultural unity and dramatize its historical emergence (it is the first attempt we know to do so), neither of which is quite so pat as suggested by the familiar formulae of debts and discoveries. The chronology is necessarily selective -- good-bye dear Phyllis Wheatley, hello Leadbelly! -- and the juxtapositions are forced and sharp, as ""Son"" House and Claude McKay. We don't always know what to make of them, despite Henderson's somewhat polemical introduction, but we do come away with a clarified and enriched idea of what is meant by ""blackness"" in art. Thesis aside, there is some wonderful rare stuff here -- blues lyrics and Georgia Sea Island songs, with a thorough survey of contemporaries.