Harper's second book, History Is Your Own Heartbeat, was published in 1971. With its powerful section on his mother-in-law's medical battles, it went on to win an award from the Black Academy of Arts and Letters as "a distinguished volume of verse."
At about the time that History went to press, Harper came to Brown University as Associate Professor of English. "My first year in residence was 1971; I had had a year's leave in Illinois, written another book, been nominated for several awards, taken my family to Ireland to see the landscape of Yeats. My honors seminar in Yeats was taught with the intensity of the elect and the evangelical. We lived off Highway 44 in North Dighton, Massachusetts, on sixteen acres in a 200-year-old house; it looked like Uncle Tom's Cabin. There were cranberries. The neighbors kept their distance. We waited for the birth of our daughter while I taught classes and wrote..." (Brown Alumni Monthly Ô83, p 48)