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DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...

Article

Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

Article

Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

Article

Navneet Sethi

poet, anthologist, and librarian during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, from age three Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending public schools there, he attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, graduating in 1923.

After college Bontemps, who had already begun writing, moved to New York City and became a teacher in Harlem. Like his contemporary Arthur A. Schomburg, Bontemps excavated the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and won recognition quite early. Opportunity magazine awarded Bontemps its Alexander Pushkin poetry prize twice: in 1926 for the poem “Golgotha Is a Mountain” and in 1927 for “The Return.” Also in 1927 his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda” won The Crisis magazine's first-ever poetry contest. In 1926 he married Alberta Johnson; they had six children.

Bontemps's first published novel for adults, God Sends Sunday (1931 ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.Bontemps then moved to Harlem, New York, where the Harlem Renaissance had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize from Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and The Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes, with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator. In Harlem, Bontemps also came to know Countée Cullen, W ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.

Bontemps then moved to New York’s Harlem, where the “Harlem Renaissance” had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize of Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and the Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator In Harlem Bontemps also ...

Article

Maia Angelique Sorrells

The works of Jeannette Franklin Caines are generally concerned with parent-child communication and other social and political issues. Jeannette Caines often presents these topics in the voice of a child. Abby (1973) explores the dynamics of adoption and the complex issues surrounding the expansion of the family, while her second book, Daddy (1977), deals with divorce and the necessity of maintaining healthy relationships between the child and both parents. Chilly Stomach (1986) concerns the difficulties of defining and confronting sexual abuse. Often Caines's books end without a resolution to the problem. This encourages thought and discussion and facilitates effective communication and problem solving between parents and children.

Caines was born in New York in 1937 and has dedicated much of her life to improving the quality of children s and young adult literature In addition to receiving the National Black Child Development Institute ...

Article

Joycelyn K. Moody

Lucille Sayles Clifton was born in Depew, New York, to Samuel L. and Thelma Moore Sayles. Her father worked for the New York steel mills; her mother was a launderer, home-maker, and avocational poet. Although neither parent was formally educated, they provided their large family with an appreciation and an abundance of books, especially those by African Americans. At age sixteen, Lucille entered college early, matriculating as a drama major at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her Howard associates included such intellectuals as Sterling A. Brown, A. B. Spellman, Chloe Wofford (now Toni Morrison), who later edited her writings for Random House, and Fred Clifton, whom she married in 1958.

After transferring to Fredonia State Teachers College in 1955 Clifton worked as an actor and began to cultivate in poetry the minimalist characteristics that would become her professional signature Like other prominent Black Aesthetic ...

Article

Dianne Johnson

Clifton said plainly:

I am a woman and I write from that experience. I am a Black woman and I write from that experience. I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am. That does not mean that I have never had bad scenes relating to being Black and/or a woman, it means that other people’s craziness has not managed to make me crazy. At least not in their way because I try very hard not to close my eye to my own craziness nor to my family’s, my sex’s, nor my race’s.

(quoted in Evans, 1984)

This statement is an apt introduction to Clifton’s considerable body of work, both for adults and for young people, comprising fiction, poetry, essays, autobiography, and interviews. She is one of the prolific writers of picture books created out of an African American consciousness and experience. She is also a 1980 ...

Article

Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

poet and author of children's books. Clifton was born Thelma Lucille Sayles in Depew, New York, the daughter of Samuel Louis Sayles Sr., a steelworker, and Thelma Moore Sayles, a laundress. The family moved to Buffalo, where Clifton grew up. Her extended family included grandparents and several uncles. Lucille's mother wrote poetry for personal enjoyment and encouraged her daughter's interest in writing.

Article

C. Doreski

Born into urban poverty in Baltimore, Maryland, on 22 December 1935, Samuel James Cornish was the youngest of the two sons of Herman and Sarah Cornish. From his older brother Herman he learned early the lessons of the street, which he later would incorporate into a street-tough observancy in his poetry.

Cornish served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (1958–1960), then returned to Baltimore, where he published two poetry collections—In This Corner: Sam Cornish and Verses (1961) and People Beneath the Window (1964). While working at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, he became part of Baltimore's political and literary underground, self-publishing a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled Generations and Other Poems (1964). A subsequent edition of Generations (1966) appeared when Cornish was editing Chicory a literary magazine by children and young adults in the Community Action Target Area ...

Article

crystal am nelson

to Trinidadian immigrants. His father, Lionel John Dillon, Sr., the proprietor of a truck delivery service, and his mother, a dressmaker, recognized Dillon’s artistic talent early in his childhood, and nurtured it by purchasing art supplies for him. However, despite his parents’ support, and perhaps because of their immigrant background and arrival in New York during the Great Depression, they aspired for their son to become either a lawyer or a doctor. Unbeknownst to his parents, Dillon elected to begin training for a career in the commercial arts at the School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, which was founded in 1936 and has since been renamed the High School of Art and Design.

After Dillon graduated from high school in 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy to take advantage of the unrestricted tuition bursary provided by the 1944 Servicemen s Readjustment Act otherwise known as the G ...

Article

Born Cyprian Duaka Odiatu Ekwensi in Minna, Nigeria, Ekwensi began his secondary education at Government College in Ibadan, completing it at Achimota College in present-day Ghana (then called the Gold Coast) in 1943. In the early 1950s he studied pharmacy at the Chelsea School of Pharmacy in London, England. While working at such jobs as forestry official, teacher, journalist, and broadcasting executive, Ekwensi pursued his writing career. He began by reading his work on a West African radio program. His first published success came with the short novel When Love Whispers (1948). People of the City (1954), a collection of interconnected short stories, chronicles the frantic pace of life in modern Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. The book’s critical view of urban existence drew attention within Nigeria and internationally.

From 1957 to 1961 Ekwensi was head of features at the Nigerian ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Ibo novelist, was born on 26 September 1921 in Minna, northern Nigeria (Niger State), to Ogbuefi David Anadumaka Ekwensi and Agnes Uso Ekwensi, who were from Nkwelle in eastern Nigeria (Anambra State). Ekwensi’s father was an elephant hunter and a great storyteller; from him, Ekwenski learned the Ibo folklore that would later enrich his stories. Ekwensi grew up among Fulani children, learning to speak Hausa, in addition to Ibo, which was spoken at home. He was known to have married at least twice: Eunice Anyiwa in 1952, with whom he had five children, and Maria in 1969.

Ekwensi was sent to Government College in Ibadan in Yorubaland where he absorbed the Yoruba culture and language He continued his studies at Achimota College Ghana then at Yaba High College Lagos and he studied forestry at the School of Forestry Ibadan He worked in the forestry department at Ibadan from ...

Article

Ruth Graham Siegrist

missionary, educator, social worker, and author was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of the Rev. David Andrew Graham, a Methodist minister, and Etta Bell Graham. His father's pastorates took the family from New Orleans to Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Nashville, Colorado Springs, and Spokane. Graham attended the University of Washington and the University of California at Los Angeles.

While a student at UCLA, Graham learned about the need for missionary teachers in Liberia, West Africa, and felt he was called there to serve. He left for Liberia in 1924 to teach at Monrovia College, a Christian boys' school.

Going to Africa changed Graham s life He realized he had gone with a false concept of what African people were like He decried the fact that all he had read or seen had described Africans in stereotypical terms as savages at best stupid and ...

Article

Kim D. Hester Williams Graham

Lorenz Bell Graham was born on 27 January 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elizabeth Etta Bell Graham and David Andrew Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister whose duties led the family to various parts of the country. After attending and completing high school in Seattle, Graham pursued undergraduate study at the University of Washington in 1921; the University of California, Los Angeles from 1923 to 1924; and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, from 1934 to 1936, where he received his bachelor's degree.

One of the consequential events of Graham's life came when he interrupted his college studies at UCLA in 1924 in order to travel to Liberia West Africa The decision was initiated by a bishop of the AME Church who had established a school in Liberia and whom Graham had heard make a plea for the help of trained young people He soon ...

Article

Chanta M. Haywood

Eloise Greenfield was born 17 May 1929, the second oldest of five children, in Parmele, North Carolina, during the early days of the Great Depression. Though money was scarce, Green-field has fond memories of how family and neighbors made her childhood enjoyable. Influenced by her personal childhood memories and experiences, by observations, and by other stories she has read and heard about, Greenfield has created lively, humorous, rhythmic books and stories that are deeply rooted in reality. Her stories are for children ranging in age from prekindergarten to junior high school. One of her books, Honey I Love (1978), which is a collection of love poems, crosses age groups and is enjoyed by kindergartners, teens, and adults. In her stories, Greenfield tries to create what she describes as “word madness,” or that feeling of excitement that one gets when reading (interview by Jean Ross in Contemporary Authors ...

Article

Nagueyalti Warren

internationally acclaimed writer of adult and young people's fiction centering on the African diaspora and cofounder of the Harlem Writers Guild. Rosa Cuthbert Guy is of dual heritage—born in Trinidad, she grew up in Harlem, where events in her own life shaped her creative outlook, forming her unforgettable themes and characters. Rosa and her sister Ameze were left with relatives when their parents Audrey and Henry Cuthbert emigrated to the United States in 1927. The girls joined their parents in 1932, and briefly the family was united; however, in 1933, Rosa's mother became ill and the children were sent to Brooklyn to live with a cousin. The cousin was a Garveyite whose politics of black nationalism profoundly affected young Rosa. In 1934 Rosa s mother died and she and her sister returned to Harlem to live with their father who remarried The girls lived briefly with a ...

Article

Chelsea Griffis

writer and reformer. Rosa Guy is best known for her novels, the majority of which depict the lives of African Americans growing up in Harlem. Born Rosa Cuthbert in Trinidad, Guy immigrated to the United States in 1932 with her family and ended up living in Harlem. Her parents died soon thereafter, and she lived in a number of foster homes and orphanages throughout her middle to late childhood. When she was fourteen years old she quit school in order to get a factory job to provide for herself and her sister.

In 1941 at age sixteen, Rosa married Warner Guy While he served in World War II she continued to work and also developed her writing skills Theater had always been an interest for Guy and during this time she became a member of the American Negro Theater Later in the 1940s she attended New York University ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

writer, was born Rosa Cuthbert in Diego Martin, a town in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, one of three children born to Henry and Audrey (née Gonzales) Cuthbert. During the late 1920s, Guy's parents emigrated to the United States, and after they found jobs and housing in Harlem, New York, Guy and her older sister, Ameze, left Diego Martin and were reunited with their parents when Guy was seven years old. By the time Guy was fourteen, both of her parents had died; Guy and her sister then resided in an orphanage and foster homes. Guy eventually left school and worked at a factory. In 1941 she enrolled in classes sponsored by the American Negro Theater (ANT) and married Warner Guy; their son, Warner Guy Jr., was born the following year. Warner Guy Sr. died in the early 1960s, a decade after the couple separated in 1950 ...