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Analysis of Parallels Between Countee Cullen's 'Incident' and Lev T. Mills' 'Gemini'

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Visual Artist: Lev T. Mills
  3. Poet: Countee Cullen
  4. Gemini, The Incident
  5. Analysis
  6. Conclusion


Art in general has become a popular medium for sending and communicating strong messages concerning life and the society as a whole. Poetry and visual art have become some of the most common forms of art used to address social, political and economic issues in the society.

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The book, words with Wings pairs a poet and a visual artist together to give a reflection on some aspect of African American experience and culture. There are several different poems paired with visual artistry in the book to pass on particular messages. One of these pairings is the famous poem titled “Incident” written by Countee Cullen, paired with the famous visual art called “Gemini” by Lev T. Mills.

Visual Artist: Lev T. Mills

Lev T. Mills, the visual artist behind the picture Gemini, was born in Tallahassee Florida. Mills received his BA from Florida and A&M University. He also got his postgraduate certificate from the Slade School of Fine Arts in the University College – University of London. Mills became renown for his Constructionist approach to art. He is one of the many artists known to have made a balanced career between being a working visual artist and an educator. Some of his famous works of art have appeared in both group and solo exhibitions across the United States, Europe and Africa. Additionally, Mills has also published an artistic book of etchings and poems called I Do.

Other works of art by Mills include commission like the Atrium floor design for Atlanta City Hall Annex, the seal for the Corretta Scott King Award as well as the famed Mixed media construction at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. You can find some of his works of art in major private and pblic collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the British Museum in London, the high Museum of art, as well as the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

Poet: Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen is still considered as one of the important figures during the African- American arts movement popularly referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. Born in 1903 in Louisville, Kentucky, Cullen attended DeWitt Clinton High School between 1918-1921 where he had won a citywide poetry competition even as an editor for the school newspaper and literary magazine. Cullen became a recognized award-winning poet from his high school years especially due to his confrontational yet creative approach to problems and challenges faced by the African- Americans at the time.

After his High school years, Cullen proceeded to New York University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and won the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize. Cullen also released the famous but volume of poetry called Color. Other poetry works like the Copper Sun and The Ballad of the Brown girl then followed. Also, other than poetry, Cullen also worked as a high school teacher. He died in 1946.

Gemini, The Incident

Gemini is a piece of visual artwork by Lev T. Mills. The painting depicts a young Black African- American boy with one hand on his chin looking directly at the viewer. Around the boy’s head is a bunch of other people running and or walking. Also behind the boy are structures including a wall with some sort of graffiti like painting with the words, “ Black is Beautiful.” The boys are depicted in a way that they may appear to be coming up right from the boy/s head. The painting has no written subject and thus the messages depicted are deduced from possible reference to the events and issue the African-Americans faced at the time.

The incident is a poem written by Countee Cullen; a renowned poet during the Harlem Renaissance. The poem is titled the incident and is a reflection on the experiences of a teenager while exploring the town of Baltimore. The poem talks about an encounter between a black American and a white American; also referred to as a Baltimorean. Particularly the poem gives subtle hints about the tension and discrimination based on the differences in culture and skin color at the time.

The poet claims that despite staying in Baltomore for 8 Months he /she only remembers the encounter with the Baltimorean who answered his smile and greetings with mockery and insult because of his /her race; called him/her “Nigger.” Could this partial memory be because some other things happened but the teenager just doesn’t want to talk about them probably because he/she wouldn’t want to recount the ordeals? Could this also be a representation of the trauma the character suffered as a result of the ordeal with the white American?


The two-paired works of art have a direct correlation with the historical events at the time of their construction. These two works of art were constructed around the time when America struggled with the issue of recall discrimination and the racially driven social political injustices at the time.

A critical look and analysis of the painting Gemini for example reveals more than just a boy and people in a painting. The boy for example is a representation of the struggles the African Americans went through at the time. Depending on a viewer’s perspective, this painting can be considered as a memory of not just a place but also an era. The time and place must have been very important to Lev. T. Mills probably because of his own personal experiences at the time.

Similarly, in the poem, the two characters are a representation of particular events that happened during certain times in Baltimore. The experiences must have been a deep reflection of probable personal experiences by the poet or by close acquaintances at the time when America struggled to understand its self and its people.

The two works of art may have been informed by individual experiences that were both tied to one common theme of racial discrimination and the struggle to belong as experienced by the African Americans. The two artists gave their work an artistic approach with slight touches from an African heritage as a reflection of the individual character’s identities and the confusing sense of belonging and acceptance in America at the time. This must probably be the reason why the two works of art have been paired together, especially since both artists are addressing a common theme tied to the struggles and problems faced by African Americans.

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In conclusion, interpretation of art is based on personal views and experiences that inform an individual’s perspective. Personally, I believe the two works of art have strongly come out to highlight African American problem due to racial discrimination and unfair treatment because of the differences in skin color. I can conclude that the two works of art are equally meaningful.

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Analysis Of Parallels Between Countee Cullen’s ‘Incident’ And Lev T. Mills’ ‘Gemini’. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from
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