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Arna Bontemps Biography

(1902–73), The Crisis, Personals

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Edward Bond (Thomas Edward Bond) Biography to Bridge

American poet, short-story writer, and novelist, born in Alexandria, Louisiana, educated at Pacific Union College, California and at the University of Chicago. He moved to the Harlem district of New York at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance, where he became well known as a poet. Most of his poems were published in the 1920s for periodicals such as The Crisis and were collected in Personals (1963). Though terse in a modernist manner, his poems also echo cadences from traditional African-American Christianity. In the early 1930s, during the Depression, he lived in Alabama, which inspired his grim short stories, The Old South: A Summer Tragedy and Other Stories of the Thirties (1973). He later became university librarian at Fisk University (194366), subsequently joining the faculty of the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. His best-known novel, Black Thunder (1935), deals vividly with Virginia slave revolts in 1800. Other works of fiction include God Sends Sunday (1931) and Drums at Dusk (1939). With Langston Hughes, he edited The Poetry of the Negro 1764–1949 (1949) and The Book of Negro Folklore (1959). He also edited Great Slave Narratives (1969) and The Harlem Renaissance Remembered (1972). (See also New Negro.)

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