Arna Bontemps

“Arna [Wendell] Bontemps: (1902-1973) American writer, librarian, and teacher. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, Bontemps moved to California at the age of three. After graduating from Pacific Union college in 1923, he moved to Harlem, where he emerged as an award-winning poet during the Harlem Renaissance. His best-known works, however, are his novels, particularly Black Thunder (1936), and historical novel about the abortive slave rebellion led by Gabriel Prosser in the Virginia of 1800. Bontemps’s most enduring legacy was his work as a librarian and historian of African-American culture. During his twenty-two year career as Librarian at Fisk University, he created one of the principal archival sources for study in the field. Among Bontemps’s thirty works are two additional novels, God Sends Sunday (1931) and Drums at Dusk (1939); a major anthology of folklore coedited with Langston Hughes, The Book of Negro Folklore (1958). A collection of memoirs, The Harlem Renaissance Remembered: Essays (1972); and several histories and fictional accounts of black life written for a juvenile audience. He collaborated with Countee Cullen to transform God Sends Sunday into a successful Broadway musical, St. Louis Woman (1945).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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