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Miguel Algarín was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. His family emigrated from Puerto Rico to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, when he was nine years old. The Lower East Side's Latin urban landscape served as the foundation for his literary career. Algarín obtained his B.A. in romance languages from the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and his M.A. in English literature from Pennsylvania State University in 1965. He completed his doctoral studies in comparative literature at Rutgers University. He served as an instructor at Brooklyn College and New York University before becoming an assistant professor and chair of the Puerto Rican Studies department at Rutgers University. He is currently a professor emeritus at Rutgers.

While Algarín is a popular educator he is best known as one of the most active authors in the Puerto Rican poetic movement that flourished in New York City in the ...

Article

Trudier Harris

Easily recognized as one of the leading African American authors, James Baldwin has contributed to a variety of genres in American literary creativity He has especially used novels and essays to focus on his favorite themes the failure of the promise of American democracy questions of racial and sexual identity the failures of the Christian church difficult family relationships and the political and social worlds that shaped the American Negro and then despised him for that shaping Frequently employing a third person plural voice in his essays Baldwin exhorts the exploiters and the exploited to save the country from its own destructive tendencies An activist who put his body on the line with his politics Baldwin was intimidatingly articulate in telling it like it is in interviews as well as on paper A small man whose voice was one of the largest America had ever heard Baldwin was intent ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

poet, playwright, educator, and activist, was born Everett Leroy Jones in Newark, New Jersey, the eldest of two children to Coyette Leroy Jones, a postal supervisor, and Anna Lois Russ, a social worker. Jones's lineage included teachers, preachers, and shop owners who elevated his family into Newark's modest, though ambitious, black middle class. His own neighborhood was black, but the Newark of Jones's youth was mostly white and largely Italian. He felt isolated and embattled at McKinley Junior High and Barringer High School, yet he excelled in his studies, played the trumpet, ran track, and wrote comic strips.

Graduating from high school with honors at age fifteen, Jones entered the Newark branch of Rutgers University on a science scholarship. In 1952 after his first year he transferred to Howard University hoping to find a sense of purpose at a black college that had ...

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Sandra Y. Govan

A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.

The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...

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Casey Kayser

teacher, poet, playwright, and artistic director of a theater company, was born Nora Brooks Blakely in Chicago, one of two children of poet Gwendolyn Brooks and Henry Blakely, a poet, auto mechanic, and insurance adjuster. Blakely's mother was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, the poet laureate of Illinois, and the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize, which she did in 1950, just a year before Nora's birth. Nora's father was the author of A Windy Place, a 1974 collection of poetry, and he later founded the Perspectivists, a group of black Chicago writers. As a child, Nora displayed a natural ability and love for reading and writing, no doubt cultivated by her parents' passion for the same.

A propensity for teaching emerged early as well at the age of three Blakely rounded up the children of her South Side Chicago neighborhood and ...

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Althea E. Rhodes

educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, Bonner applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school adviser and was one of the few African American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, Bonner won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a BA in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930 ...

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

Richard Sobel

writer and educator, was born Ian Alwyn Cuthbert Rynveld Carew in Agricola Rome, British Guiana (later Guyana), the son of Charles Alan Carew, a farmer and artist, and Kathleen Ethel Robertson, a teacher. His parents worked in New York while the family lived in Harlem from 1925 to 1927.

In 1939 Carew briefly taught at Berbice School for Girls in New Amsterdam, Guiana, and in 1940 graduated from Berbice high school in New Amsterdam, receiving an Oxford/Cambridge Senior Certificate, the equivalent of two years of college. He was called up to the British Army Coast Artillery Regiment from 1939 to 1943 and served as a customs officer from 1940 to 1943 for the British Colonial Civil Service in British Guiana. In 1943 and 1944 he worked for the government of Trinidad and Tobago as a price control officer before continuing his education abroad.

Carew came back to ...

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Elizabeth Brown-Guillory

Alice Childress was never flattered by the litany of firsts that were used to refer to her works She believed that when people have been barred from something for so long it seems ironic to emphasize the first Instead Childress looked to the day when she would be the fiftieth or one hundredth African American artist to accomplish something Long regarded as a champion of the masses of poor people in America Childress wrote about the disparity between rich and poor underscoring that racism and sexism are added burdens forced upon women of color A reticent and private person Childress boldly spoke out in her works against an American government that either exploits or ignores poor people in the name of capitalism One of Childress s strongest convictions was that black authors must explore and include black history in their writings Her sagacity and commitment to preserving black culture and ...

Article

Steven R. Carter

Born Kathleen Conwell in Jersey City, she was the daughter of Frank and Loretta Conwell. Her father, who had worked as a mortician, became the principal of a high school now named after him and the first black New Jersey state legislator. In 1963, after receiving her BA in philosophy and religion from Skidmore College, Collins worked on black southern voter registration for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1966 she earned an MA in French literature and cinema through the Middle-bury program at Paris's Sorbonne. Joining the editorial and production staff at a New York City Public Broadcasting Service station, Collins worked as a film editor and began writing stories. In 1974, soon after ending her marriage to Douglas Collins, she became a professor of film history and screenwriting at the City College of New York. Adapting Henry H. Roth's fiction for the screen in The ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

poet, scholar, teacher, editor, playwright, and novelist. Cullen was born Countée Leroy Porter most likely in Louisville, Kentucky. Exactly where he was born remains a mystery since there is no extant birth certificate and Cullen himself claimed two cities as his birthplace at different points in his life. On his application to New York University, he wrote that he was born in Louisville. Cullen's second wife, Ida Mae Roberson, and his friends Langston Hughes and Harold Jackman each said that Cullen also told them he was born there. After Cullen gained a reputation as one of the most respected writers of the Harlem Renaissance, however, he claimed on several occasions that he was born in New York City. Another mystery surrounding Cullen's early years is his relationship with Amanda Porter who raised him from his infancy moving with him to New York ...

Article

L. Diane Barnes

novelist, playwright, and Baptist minister. Dixon was born near the close of the Civil War near Shelby, North Carolina. The Dixon family, once a prominent southern family, was left penniless in the physical and economic devastation of the South after the war. Dixon's father, a Baptist minister, joined the Ku Klux Klan during Dixon's youth. Images of the riders in white sheets coming to save the white South had a lasting impression on Dixon. His belief that the Reconstruction era was one of history's supreme tragedies was a common theme in several of his novels and plays.

Dixon earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Wake Forest University, then pursued graduate work at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There he befriended the future president Woodrow Wilson who was a few years ahead in his own graduate studies After a brief attempt at an acting career ...

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Amy Tillerson

poet. Dove's writing gives voice and power to ordinary people by examining social injustice and everyday life both historically and contemporarily through the lenses of race, gender, and class.

Dove was born to middle-class parents in Akron, Ohio. Her grandparents were involved in the Great Migration, which brought them north from the rural South. Dove's book of poetry, Thomas and Beulah, about her maternal grandparents won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987. Dove's mother, Elvira Hord Dove, graduated from high school at the age of sixteen and was awarded a full academic scholarship to Howard University. Believing that Washington, D.C., was too far from home, Elvira's parents did not allow her to accept the scholarship, and she enrolled in a local secretarial school. Rita Dove's father, Ray Dove earned an MA in chemistry from the University of Akron and completed the coursework necessary for ...

Article

Mary Anne Boelcskevy

playwright and educator, was born Sheppard Randolph Edmonds in Lawrenceville, Virginia, one of the nine children of George Washington Edmonds and Frances Fisherman, sharecroppers and former slaves. His mother had been moved from New Orleans to a nearby plantation around Petersburg, Virginia, during the Civil War. She died when Randolph was twelve. Like many other black children, Edmonds attended school for only a short part of the year—in his case five months—and worked the rest on nearby plantations. He went on to attend St. Paul's Normal and Industrial School (later St. Paul's College), the local high school in Lawrenceville, and worked during the summers of 1918–1920 as a waiter in New York City, where he first attended the theater. In 1921 he graduated as valedictorian, with prizes in both English and history. The director of academics at St. Paul's, J. Alvin Russell encouraged him to attend his ...

Article

Betty Taylor-Thompson

is the protagonist's grandmother in Toni Morrison's novel Sula (1974). Her distinction is due to the claim that she purposely allowed her leg to be cut off by a train so that she could gain the pension that would provide financial support for her children. Desertion by her husband leaves Eva destitute and desperate, and after the loss of her leg, she retreats to her upstairs bedroom and directs the lives of her children, strays, and boarders. Eva is also a mythic character who is unchaste and unwilling to submit to anyone or any God, in opposition to her Christian namesake.

Although Eva is characterized in the narrative as enthralled by “manlove”, he demonstrates a contemptuous attitude toward men in her naming. She sets fire to her son Ralph, whom she called Plum when he returns from war with a heroin addiction and attempts ...

Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

playwright, was born in Egypt's Al Sharqiya governorate to a middle-class family. His father was a government employee, and his mother died when he was five years old. He completed his primary and secondary education in Alexandria, then studied English literature at the University of Farouk I (after 1952 known as the University of Alexandria). After graduating in 1949, he worked as an English teacher for six years but abandoned this work for a career in the press. In 1959 he was arrested on charges of belonging to a leftist organization and spent five years in jail. For ten years following his release, Farag served in various posts in official cultural institutions in Egypt. However, he was forced to leave Egypt in 1973 following a clash between President Muhammad Anwar al Sadat and Egyptian intellectuals Over the course of fourteen years Farag lived in various countries including ...

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Kathleen A. Hauke

Growing up on an Alabama farm, Julia Fields imbibed a love of nature, words, and the cadences of biblical language from both parents and a commitment to craftsmanship from her preacher-carpenter father. By age twelve she had already memorized verses from the Bible and poems of Lewis Carroll, William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, William Shakespeare, and even Henry VanDyke. She recited their lines to herself as she knelt over her garden plot. She mused that poets, such as Wordsworth on Toussaint L'Ouverture, were writing about blacks “before we did.”

In seventh grade, her teacher recognized Fields's talent when she assigned the writing of an original poem. The summer she was sixteen, watching the changing colors of the sky while bringing in the cattle for milking, Fields was inspired to write “The Horizon” her first poem to be published in Scholastic magazine Fields attended the ...

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Helen R. Houston

Jennie Elizabeth Franklin was born in Houston, Texas; she began writing her impressions as a child and received a BA from the University of Texas. She was a primary school teacher in the Freedom School in Carthage, Mississippi (1964); served as a youth director at the Neighborhood House in Buffalo, New York (1964–1965); worked as an analyst in the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity in New York City (1967–1968); and was a lecturer in education at the Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York (1969–1975).

In 1964, while working with CORE in Mississippi, she engaged in an effort designed to interest students in reading. Her techniques led to her playwrighting career and her first full-length play, A First Step to Freedom (1964 which was performed in Harmony Mississippi at Sharon Waite Community Center Other produced ...

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Barnsley E. Brown

P. J. Gibson has demonstrated her talent in writing ranging from poems and short stories to public service announcements and media publications. However, she is best known for her plays, three of which have been anthologized.

Gibson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. While in her early teens, she studied under J. P. Miller (The Days of Wine and Roses, 1973). In the early 1970s, she earned a BA in drama, religion, and English from Keuka College in New York. She was then awarded a Shubert Fellowship to study playwriting at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where she completed her MFA in 1975. Aside from J. P. Miller, Gibson's mentors include Don Peterson (Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, 1969) and Israel Horovitz (Indian Wants the Bronx, 1968).

Although Gibson has had several mentors Lorraine ...

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Charles Leonard

When Charles Gordone became the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1970 for No Place to Be Somebody (1969), New York Times drama criticWalter Kerr described him as “the most astonishing new American playwright since Edward Albee.” The NAACP's Crisis remarked that “Charles Gordone has definitely arrived.” Although No Place was by far Gordone's most successful project, it marked the middle of an extensive career, spanning well over forty years, in writing, acting, directing, and teaching.

Gordone, born in Cleveland, Ohio, on 12 October 1925 grew up in Elkhart Indiana Excelling in academics and athletics he still struggled to gain acceptance in a predominantly white section of town where he lived and among African Americans in the town who questioned his racial allegiance Though his diverse racial heritage excited an early preoccupation with identity that extended throughout his life and ...