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Sibyl Collins Wilson

journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Muskegon, Michigan, to Ezra Douglas and Natalie VanArsdale Bell. As a youngster, Bell was such a committed reader that visits to the library were withheld from him as punishment for misbehaving. His love for reading served him well throughout his life.

Bell enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968 and remained in the service until 1970, after which he attended the University of Michigan for a year. After relocating to New York, he attended Hofstra University for free because he worked as a custodian, maintaining classrooms in 1970. Applying those same principles of hard work in exchange for opportunity, he joined the staff at Newsday and worked his way up from custodian to Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist. According to a biography written for the Pulitzer Prize award book, he held many positions in the Newsday organization including porter clerk ...

Article

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director, educator, and screenwriter, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the three children of Lillian (Anderson) and Charles H. Fuller Sr., a printer who instilled in his son the love for words. Fuller was raised in northern Philadelphia in an integrated neighborhood. When he was thirteen he saw his first theatre performance at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. The experienced made a lasting impression on him. Later, he became a voracious reader. His readings made him aware of the cultural and racial biases he made his life's mission to correct.

Success did not come easy to him, though. After graduating high school in 1956 Fuller attended Villanova University in hopes of becoming a writer There he was confronted with racism for the first time as a student being told by his professors that writing was not a good profession ...

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Sibyl Collins Wilson

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and radio talk show personality, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Ruby (maiden name unknown) and Roger Henderson. When he was a teenager, he and his family moved to Oakland, California. After graduating from high school, Henderson attended the University of Kentucky and graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. He pledged the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. After obtaining his degree, he interned with The Walt Disney Company and newspapers such as The Detroit Free Press and the Lexington Herald Leader.

In 1986 he took a job with the Louisville Courier‐Journal in Kentucky, after which he worked as a beat reporter for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. In 1995 he joined the Detroit bureau of the Wall Street Journal to cover the automotive industry with a focus on the Chrysler Corporation He was appointed as the deputy bureau ...

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Joshunda Sanders

short story writer and essayist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, to James Allen McPherson, a master electrician, and Mable Smalls McPherson, a domestic servant.

McPherson grew up attending segregated public schools and sometimes played hooky from school to read at the “colored” branch of the local Carnegie library. As a teenager, he worked as a dining car waiter on passenger trains—an exclusively African American profession that figures prominently in some of his work. “The well-known short story, ‘A Solo Song: For Doc’ (from his first collection, 1969's Hue and Cry), for example, is a character study of two railroad waiters of different generations. McPherson continued to work on the trains of the Great Northern Railroad while attending Morris Brown College, a private, predominately African American institution in Georgia” (in “James Alan McPherson,” Contemporary Black Biography, no. 70 [2009 He was able to ...

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Jon Wallace

and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for Elbow Room (1978). James Alan McPherson was born in Savannah, Georgia, son of James Allen and Mable (Smalls) McPherson. He attended Morgan State University (1963–1964), Morris Brown College (BA, 1965), Harvard University (LLB, 1968), and the University of Iowa (MFA, 1969). He has taught English at the University of Iowa Law School (1968–1969), the University of California, Santa Cruz (1969–1970), Morgan State University (1975–1976), the University of Virginia (1976–1981), and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop (1981—).

McPherson published his first book of short stories, Hue and Cry (1969 shortly after graduating from Harvard Law School which may explain his lawyerly approach to storytelling Like a good counsel he knows how to make the strongest rhetorical case for each of his ...

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Meredith Broussard

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and newspaper editor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jerry A. Moore, an electrician and stationary engineer at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and the Pyramid Tire Retreading Co., and homemaker Hura May Harrington. Moore grew up in West Philadelphia, where he attended Philadelphia's Overbrook High School and studied trumpet and French horn at the Settlement Music School. After graduating in 1958, he played jazz professionally for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Army, where he served as a medic. Returning to Philadelphia after being discharged from the Army in 1962, Moore applied for a job as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer—“Because I could type,” he said (telephone interview with subject, April 2007).

When Moore began as a copy clerk he was responsible for running copy to editors and reporters and was one of only three ...

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Kimberly Burnett

writer and editor. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Toni Morrison grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and had an older sister and two younger brothers. Her parents, George and Ramah Wofford, who had migrated to the steel-mill town from the South, provided Morrison with a background in African American folklore as well as an understanding of the importance of maintaining black community. After graduating from high school, Morrison left Lorain in 1949 to attend Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.; during her time as an undergraduate, Morrison had the opportunity to travel throughout the South with the Howard University Players. After changing her first name to Toni, Morrison graduated from Howard in 1953 with a BA in English and a minor in classics. By 1955 Morrison had completed her MA degree at Cornell University and begun teaching at Texas Southern University Two years ...

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Furaha D. Norton

In her bestselling novels as well as her nonfiction Toni Morrison has created a sweeping panorama of the diasporic black experience in America In novels whose settings range from the American rural South and the industrial and urban North to the western frontier and which cover historical periods from the colonial era through the contemporary period she has used African American history myth and folklore as well as sharp insight into human behavior and motivation to create stories and characters that establish the black experience in America as one of tremendous nuance and complexity In her often fragmented nonlinear narratives the specters of slavery and ongoing racial oppression and inequality are ever present along with astonishing resilience and humanity Morrison s work has inspired an entire generation of students and scholars and has changed how readers understand race and history in literature the postmodern novel and how writers use folklore ...

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Kristine A. Yohe

If Toni Morrison were to draw a map of her journeys of personal and creative exploration the result would show many overlapping trajectories Although Morrison has lived most of her life in the Northeast and Midwest her parents origins in the South particularly Georgia and Alabama have deeply influenced her cultural awareness After growing up in Lorain Ohio Morrison attended college in Washington D C had an extended stay in the Caribbean her former husband s home did graduate work and editing in upstate New York taught for a time in Houston Texas and even traveled to Stockholm Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize yet she has lived in New York City or its vicinity for the bulk of her adult life Likewise her literary works span the country and even the hemisphere the settings frequently drawn from her own experiences in the Midwest the South the Caribbean Florida New ...

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Nellie Y. McKay

Toni Morrison's many achievements include a Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, a Pulitzer Prize (1987), and the National Book Critics Circle and American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Awards (1977). Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was christened Chloe Anthony Wofford, a name she later changed. She studied English at Howard University (B.A., 1953) and Cornell University (M.A., 1955). She taught briefly at Texas Southern and Howard Universities, edited textbooks, and in 1968, with two sons from a short-lived, late-1950s marriage, moved to New York City as a senior editor at Random House, where she promoted the careers of several now well-known black writers. From 1971 to 1988 Morrison taught at the State University of New York at Albany then became Robert F Goheen Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University By the late 1990s she had ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

I'm interested in how men are educated, how women relate to each other, how we are able to love, how we balance political and personal forces, who survives in certain situations and who doesn't and, specifically, how these and other universal issues relate to African Americans. The search for love and identity runs through most everything I write.

In this comment from a 1992 interview Toni Morrison gives one description of the complex range of issues she explores in her work Morrison is widely recognized as one of the most influential American writers and her novels are taught in literature history women s studies and African American studies courses across the United States and around the world She has received numerous honorary degrees prizes and awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature Above all Morrison is known for her rich lyrical prose which fuses the rhythms and imagery of ...

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Valerie Smith

novelist and Nobel laureate, was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a poor, ethnically diverse steel town. She was the second of four children of George Wofford, who worked, variously, as a welder in a steel mill and as a road construction and shipyard worker, and Ella Ramah Willis. Both of Morrison's parents had migrated north, seeking better opportunities and to escape racial and economic oppression in the South. Her maternal grandparents had come to Ohio from Alabama and Kentucky; her father was originally from Georgia. Like many African American migrants, her family eventually realized that the North was not free of racism and poverty. Yet Morrison's childhood in Lorain taught her to value a community in which people shared the limited resources available to them. She also learned to appreciate the value of storytelling at an early age.

Morrison converted to Catholicism when she was ...

Article

From “Quiet as it's kept,” the phrase that begins the narrative of The Bluest Eye(1970), her first novel, to “Look where your hands are. Now,” the final phrase of Jazz (1992), her sixth novel, Toni Morrison has distinguished herself as an author, editor, and critic who has transformed the American literary landscape with her presence in the African American literary tradition. When she won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy referred to her as one “who, in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Indeed, in her Nobel lecture, delivered on 7 December 1993 in Stockholm she eloquently demonstrated that the visionary force and poetic import of her novels reflect her worldview and understanding of how language shapes human reality Through her own use of the spoken and written word she ...

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Carolyn C. Denard

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio a steel mill town on the shore of Lake Erie Morrison was the second of four children Her father was a welder in the steel mills and her mother was a homemaker Morrison s parents and maternal grandparents migrated to Lorain from the South in the early 1900s Her maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Greenville Alabama who had lost their land in the late 1890s and were never able to get out of debt Her father s family had been sharecroppers in Cartersville Georgia and his painful memoirs of racial strife left him with a bitter attitude toward whites Morrison was thus brought up with a strong distrust of whites and an understanding that the only tangible or emotional aid on which she could depend would come from her own community Group loyalty was among the earliest values she was taught as ...

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Shelle Sumners

Suzan-Lori Parks is one of a small handful of African American women, among them Lorraine Hansberry and Ntozake Shange, who have achieved professional success as playwrights in American theater. She was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but because her father was a colonel in the U.S. Army, she lived in several states and attended junior high school in Germany. Parks began writing at an early age, with little thought to becoming a playwright. During her undergraduate studies at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Parks took a creative writing class taught by African American novelist James Baldwin She read her character laden stories aloud in his class with a theatricality that prompted Baldwin to suggest that she try writing for the theater In describing her creative potential he called Parks an utterly astounding and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of ...

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Harry Elam

playwright, was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Francis McMillan, an educator, and Donald Parks, an army officer and, later, professor. From her parents Parks gained cultural exposure, a love for literature, and an understanding of the value in education. Her ability as a writer surfaced early on, and she began writing stories at age five. With her father in the army, Parks spent her childhood years in a variety of different locales, including six American states and West Germany. Rather than the traditional American schools attended by the children of most servicemen, Parks attended a German high school.

Parks then entered Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, graduating cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1985 with a BA in English and German. While at Mount Holyoke, she studied creative writing with the celebrated writer James Baldwin Impressed with her ability as well as ...

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Hilary Mac Austin

Parks was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, one of only a handful of black women playwrights to make it to the Broadway stage, and one of the only African American avant-garde playwrights in history. Her plays were nonlinear, nonrealistic, poetic, challenging, and often controversial.

Born in Fort Knox, Kentucky Parks began writing stories almost as soon as she could hold a pencil An army brat whose father was a colonel in the U S Army she had lived in six different states by the time she was a teenager When the family was posted to Germany Parks experienced for the first time life outside of America s prism of race In Germany she was regarded as an American a foreigner first and a black person second Because her parents decided to place their daughter in the local German school rather than in ...

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Luther Brown

journalist and editor, was born in Okolona, Mississippi, to James Lee Raspberry, a school shop teacher, and Willie Mae Tucker an English teacher and amateur poet Both parents were intensely interested in education and in seeing to it that their children were the beneficiaries of good educations They prodded their six youngsters to achieve instilling in them a passion for reading a positive approach to life and a desire for logical thinking From his mother Raspberry said that he learned to care about the rhythm and grace of words and from his father he recalled learning that neither tables nor arguments are worthwhile unless they stand solidly on four legs Raspberry went north first moving to live with an older sister in Indianapolis In a few years the rest of the family left the South to become residents of Indianapolis where Raspberry and the rest of his ...

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Moneta Sleet, Jr. was born in Owensboro, Kentucky. Wanting to be a photographer since early childhood, he studied photography and business at Kentucky State College. In 1955 he became a staff photographer for Ebony magazine. On assignment, he met Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956 and the two ...

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Cherise Smith

photojournalist, was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the elder of two children of Moneta Sleet Sr. and Ozetta Allensworth, both teachers. Owensboro was a segregated town, but it fostered a close-knit black community that offered a safe environment in which to raise Moneta and his sister, Emmy Lou. Moneta's parents were college educated, and they instilled in their son a high regard for education and a deep respect for their racial heritage. By the time Moneta was ten years old, he had become the family photographer, shooting with a Brownie box camera. At Western High School, he joined the camera club, learning from his chemistry teacher how to develop pictures. He graduated in 1942.

Sleet enrolled at Kentucky State College in 1942 and majored in business while working as assistant to Dean John T. Williams who was himself an accomplished photographer and from whom Sleet learned ...