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Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Coleman, later known as Bessie, was born in Atlanta, Texas. Her mother, Susan Coleman, was African American, and her father, George Coleman, was one-quarter African American and three-quarters Choctaw Indian. While Coleman was still an infant her family moved to Waxahachie, Texas, but a few years later her father returned to an Indian reservation in the Oklahoma Territory. Coleman's mother was left to care for the large family by picking cotton and doing domestic work. Susan Coleman enlisted Bessie's help in these jobs; in return, Bessie was allowed to save the wages she earned to help finance her college education.

Coleman finished high school, but the money she had saved was only enough to pay for one semester at the Colored Agricultural Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma (later Langston University). Coleman left the university for Chicago, Illinois where two of her brothers lived There ...

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Virginia Whatley Smith

Diane Alene Oliver lived only twenty-two years, but she left a legacy of short stories to earn her recognition. Born 28 July 1943, Oliver grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where her passage into adolescence coincided with the racial upheavals in the Charlotte–Mecklenburg school system. The Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, mandating desegregation of public schools. Oliver never capitulated to notions of racial inferiority and went on to graduate from West Charlotte High School.

In 1960, she enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; that marked the beginning of an auspicious writing career. Oliver served as managing editor of The Carolinian, the campus newspaper; studied under poet Randall Jarrell; and also began to write short stories. A career break occurred when Oliver won the guest editorship for the June 1964 edition of Mademoiselle magazine in its ...