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date: 30 March 2020

Heard, Nathan C . locked

(b. 1936–2004), novelist, lecturer musician, educator, television host, and actor.
  • Marva O. Banks

Extract

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on 7 November 1936, to Nathan E. and Gladys Fruitt Heard (a blues singer), Nathan Cliff Heard was reared by his mother and maternal grandmother in Newark's inner city; he dropped out of school at fifteen, drifted into a life of crime, and spent the next seventeen years (1951–1968) in and out of New Jersey State Prison at Trenton where he served time for armed robbery.

While in prison Heard distinguished himself as a talented and award-winning athlete. It was not until fellow prisoner Harold Carrington introduced him to the masters—Langston Hughes, Samuel Beckett, James Baldwin, Jean Genet, Amiri Baraka, and others—that Heard began to write, at first about music and African history. In 1963, encouraged by his fellow inmates, he wrote the manuscript for To Reach a Dream Although the novel did not sell ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature.

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