Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, into a Louisiana Creole family. His ancestors included free people of color and French colonists. His father was a contractor and sometimes would take his son to construction sites. As the boy got older, his father would take him along to speak-easies at night that featured jazz. His mother, Maria Carolina Pembroke, was a schoolteacher.
When Bontemps was three years old, his family moved to Los Angeles, California in the Great Migration of blacks out of the South and into cities of the North, Midwest and West. They settled in what became known as the Watts district. After attending public schools, Bontemps attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, where he graduated in 1923. He majored in English and minored in history, and he was also a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
Bontemps wrote many novels that inspired and touched the hearts of readers. In addition, he taught at Oakwood Junior College, challenging students with poetry and theatrical performances.
Before the publication of "Hope" in the Crisis magazine, Bontemps studied at an Seventh-day Adventist institution named the Pacific Union College in Napa, California; he changed his major and graduated in 1923. Following his graduation, Bontemps met and befriended the author Wallace Thurman, of Fire!! magazine in his job at Los Angeles Post Office. Bontemps later traveled to New York City, where he settled and became part of the Harlem Renaissance.
At the age of 22, Bontemps published his first poem, "Hope," in 1924 in the Crisis Magazine of the NAACP. He published "Hope" in the Crisis magazine, originally called A Record of the Darker Races, in August 1924. Bontemps depicted hope as an "empty bark" drifting meaninglessly with no purpose, referring to his confusion about his career. Bontemps, along with many other West Coast intellectuals, traveled to New York during the Harlem Renaissance.
After graduation, he moved to New York to teach at the Harlem Academy in 1924. The Harlem Academy is the present day Northeastern Academy in New York City. While he was teaching, Bontemps continued to publish poetry. In both 1926 and 1927, he received the Alexander Pushkin Prize of Opportunity, a National Urban League published journal. In 1926 he won the Crisis Poetry Prize, which was an official journal of the NAACP.
In New York, Bontemps met other writers who became lifelong friends, including Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay and Jean Toomer. Hughes became a role model, collaborator, and dear friend to Bontemps.
Bontemps married in 1926 to Alberta Johnson, with whom he had six children. From oldest to youngest they are: Joan, Paul, Poppy, Camille, Connie and Alex. In 1931, he left New York and his teaching position at the Harlem Academy as the Great Depression deepened. He and his family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he had a teaching position at the Oakwood Junior College for three years.
In the early 1930s, Bontemps began to publish fiction, in addition to more poetry. He received a considerable amount of attention for his first novel, God Sends Sunday (1931). This novel explored the story of an African-American jockey named Little Augie who easily earns money and carelessly squanders it. Little Augie ends up wandering through the black sporting world when his luck as a jockey eventually runs out. Bontemps was praised for his poetic style, his re-creation of the black language and his distinguishing characters throughout this novel. However, despite the abundant amount of praise, W.E.B. Du Bois viewed it as "sordid" and equated it with other "decadent" novels of the Harlem Renaissance. Later in his career, Bontemps collaborated with Countee Cullen to create a dramatic adaption of the novel. Together in 1946 they published this adaption as St. Louis Woman.
Bontemps also began to write several children's books. In 1932, he collaborated with Langston Hughes and wrote Popo and Fifina. This story followed the lives of siblings Popo and Fifina, in an easy to understand introduction to Haitian life for children. Bontemps continued writing children’s novels and published You Can’t Pet a Possum (1934), which followed a story of a boy and his pet dog living in a rural part of Alabama.
During the early 1930s, African-American writers and intellectuals were not welcomed in Northern Alabama. Just thirty miles from Huntsville in Decatur, the Scottsboro boys were being tried in court. During this time, Bontemps had many friends visit and stay with him while they came to Alabama to protest this trial. The school administration was worried about his many out-of-state visitors. In later years, Bontemps said that the administration at Oakwood Junior College had demanded he burn many of his private books to demonstrate that he had given up radical politics. Bontemps refused to do so. He resigned from his teaching position and returned with his family to California in 1934. 
In 1936 Bontemps published what is considered as some of his best work, Black Thunder. This novel recounts the tale of a rebellion that took place in 1800 near Richmond, Virginia led by Gabriel Prosser, an uneducated field worker and coachman. It shares Prosser's attempted plan to conduct a slave army to raid an armory in Richmond, and once armed with weapons, defend themselves against any assailants. A fellow slave betrayed Prosser, causing the rebellion to be shut down. Prosser was captured by whites and lynched. In Bontemps' version, whites were compelled to admit that slaves were humans who had possibilities of a promising life.
Black Thunder received many extraordinary reviews by both African-American and mainstream journals, for example, the Saturday Review of Literature. Despite these rave reviews, Bontemps did not earn enough from sales of the novel to support his family in Chicago, where he had moved shortly before he published the novel. He briefly taught in Chicago at the Shiloh Academy but did not stay long, leaving for a job with the WPA Illinois Writers’ Project. The WPA had writers working on histories of states and major cities. In 1938, following the publication of children’s book Sad-Faced Boy (1937), Bontemps was granted a Rosenwald fellowship to work on his novel, Drums at Dusk (1939). This was based on Toussaint L’Ouverture's slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue (which became the independent republic of Haiti). This book was more widely recognized than his other novels. Some critics viewed the plot as overdramatic, while others commended its characterizations.
Bontemps struggled to make enough from his books to support his family. However, more important, he gained little acknowledgement for his work despite being a prolific writer. This caused him to become discouraged as an African-American writer of this time. He started to believe that it was futile for him to attempt to address his writing to his own generation, so he chose to focus his serious writing on younger and more progressive audiences. Bontemps met Jack Conroy on the Illinois Writers’ Project, and in collaboration they wrote The Fast Sooner Hound (1942). This was a children’s story about a hound dog, Sooner, who races and outruns trains. Embarrassed about this, the roadmaster puts him against the fastest train, the Cannon Ball.
Bontemps returned to graduate school and earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Chicago in 1943. Bontemps was appointed as head librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. During his time there, he developed important collections and archives of African-American literature and culture, namely the Langston Hughes Renaissance Collection. He was initiated as a member of the Zeta Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity at Fisk in 1954. Bontemps served at Fisk until 1964 and would continue to return occasionally.
After retiring from Fisk University in 1966, Bontemps worked at the University of Illinois (Chicago Circle). He later moved to Yale University, where he served as curator of the James Weldon Johnson Collection.
During this time, Bontemps published numerous novels varying in genre. Slappy Hooper (1946), and Sam Patch (1951) were two children’s books that he co wrote with Jack Conroy. Individually he published Lonesome Boy (1955) and Mr. Kelso’s Lion (1970), two other children’s books. Simultaneously he was writing pieces targeted for teenagers, including biographies on George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. His other pieces of this time were Golden Slippers (1941), "Story of the Negro" (1948), Chariot in the Sky (1951) and Famous Negro Athletes (1964) (Fleming). Critics highly praised his Story of the Negro, which received the Jane Addams Children's Book Award and was a Newbery Honor Book.
Bontemps worked with Langston Hughes on pieces geared toward adults. They edited The Poetry of the Negro (1949) and The Book of Negro Folklore (1958). He collaborated with Conroy and wrote a history of the migration of African-Americans in the United States called They Seek a City (1945). They later revised and published it as Anyplace But Here (1966). Bontemps also wrote 100 Years of Negro Freedom (1961) and edited Great Slave Narratives (1969) and The Harlem Renaissance Remembered (1972). In addition he was also able to edit American Negro Poetry (1963), which was a popular anthology. He compiled his poetry in Personals (1963) and also wrote an introduction for a previous novel, Black Thunder, when it was republished in 1968.
Bontemps is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.
Through his librarianship and bibliographic work, Bontemps became a leading figure in establishing African-American literature as a legitimate object of study and preservation. His work as a poet, novelist, children’s writer, editor, librarian and historian helped shape modern African-American literature, but it also had a tremendous influence on African-American culture.
100 Greatest African Americans is a biographical dictionary of one hundred historically great Black Americans (in alphabetical order; that is, they are not ranked), as assessed by Temple University professor Molefi Kete Asante in 2002.Bontemps African American Museum
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum was a museum in the United States city of Alexandria, Louisiana. The museum was housed in the restored home that was the birthplace of the poet Arna Bontemps, renowned as one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance.The museum and cultural center was located at 1327 3rd Street, and was one of the first 26 featured sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.Chicago Black Renaissance
The Chicago Black Renaissance (also known as the Black Chicago Renaissance) was a creative movement that blossomed out of the Chicago Black Belt on the city's South Side and spanned the 1930s and 1940s before a transformation in art and culture in the mid-1950s through the turn of the century. The movement included such famous African-American writers as Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Arna Bontemps, and Lorraine Hansberry, as well as musicians Thomas A. Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, and Earl Hines. Artists include, William Edouard Scott, Elizabeth Catlett, Charles Wilbert White, Margaret Burroughs, Archibald John Motley, Jr., and Eldzier Cortor.
During the Great Migration, which brought tens of thousands of African-Americans to Chicago's South Side, African-American writers, artists, and community leaders began promoting racial pride and a new black consciousness, similar to that of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. Unlike the Harlem Renaissance, the Chicago Black Renaissance did not receive the same amount of publicity on a national scale. This was due to several factors, including the Chicago group participants did not present a singularly prominent "face", wealthy patrons were less involved, and New York City, home of Harlem, was the higher profile national publishing center.Corliss High School
George Henry Corliss High School (commonly known as Corliss High School) is a public 4–year high school located in the Pullman neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Corliss is operated by the Chicago Public Schools district. The school is named in the honor of American engineer George Henry Corliss. Corliss opened in September 1974. The school's sports teams are nicknamed the Trojans. Corliss shares its campus with Butler College Preparatory High School, a public charter school which is a part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools.Dorothy Vena Johnson
Dorothy Vena Johnson (May 7, 1898 — 1970) was an American poet and educator based in Los Angeles, California. In 1939, she was co-founder of the League of Allied Arts, an African-American women's arts organization.Fenton Johnson (poet)
Fenton Johnson (May 7, 1888 – September 17, 1958) was an American poet, essayist, author of short stories, editor, and educator. Johnson came from a middle-class African-American family in Chicago. His work is often included in anthologies of 20th-century poetry, and he is noted for early prose poetry. James Weldon Johnson (no relation) called Fenton, "one of the first Negro revolutionary poets”Fire!!
Fire!! was an African-American literary magazine published in New York City in 1926 during the Harlem Renaissance. The publication was started by Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, John P. Davis, Richard Bruce Nugent, Gwendolyn Bennett, Lewis Grandison Alexander, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. After it published one issue, its quarters burned down, and the magazine ended.Ifa Bayeza
Ifa Bayeza (born Wanda Williams) is a playwright, producer, and conceptual theater artist. She wrote the play The Ballad of Emmett Till, which earned her the Edgar Award for Best Play in 2009. She is the sister of Ntozake Shange, and directed Shange's A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, which was a part of the Negro Ensemble Company's 2015 Year of the Woman Play Reading Series in New York City.Jack Conroy
John Wesley Conroy (December 5, 1899 - February 28, 1990) was a leftist American writer, also known as a Worker-Writer, best known for his contributions to “proletarian literature,” fiction and nonfiction about the life of American workers during the early decades of the 20th century.Lee Pierce Butler
Lee Pierce Butler (December 19, 1884 – March 28, 1953) was a professor at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School. He was one of the first to use the term "library science" (along with S. R. Ranganathan), by which he meant the scientific study of books and users, and was a leader in the new social-scientific approach to the field in the 1930s and 1940s.
Butler was born in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. A middling student at first, he earned a Ph.B in 1906 and an M.A. in Latin in 1910 from Dickinson College. He went on to study medieval church history at Hartford Theological Seminary, earning a B.D. in 1910 for "Napoleon's Attitude to Christianity and to the Roman Catholic Church" and his Ph.D. in 1912 for "Studies on the Christology of Irenaeus." He failed in parish life, but found himself a bit later. Butler worked at the Newberry Library in Chicago from 1916 to 1919, and went on to lead its John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing. In that position he built the collection of the Newberry into one of the great research libraries for international scholarship in the United States, through extensive international travel to acquire hard-to-find books.In 1931, Butler became a professor of bibliographic history at the Graduate Library School (GLS) of the University of Chicago (the same year that The Library Quarterly was founded there). It is for his work there defending the new techniques of quantitative social science to questions of librarianship that he is best known. His classic articulation of these ideas is his 1933 book, An Introduction to Library Science (University of Chicago Press), the title of which introduced the idea of librarianship as a science. Among his best known students are Lester Asheim, Arna Bontemps, Rudolf Hirsch, Haynes McMullen, Jesse Shera, and Raynard Swank.
His ideas of the 1930s went against the humanistic, literary approach to librarianship (the "scholar librarian" of old) as well as the technical, procedure-based approach of "library economy" (the common term for library science of the time). The significant aspects of the GLS approach were that it employed quantitative, scientific research methods, and that it aimed to examine librarianship as a social system of communication. Librarianship, according to Butler's new definition, was the "transmission of the accumulated experience of society through the instrumentality of the book." Thus, the problems his new "library science" was intended to address were social problems of information exchange and communication in society, where library economy had been confined to addressing the practical problems of the administration of libraries. While not everyone welcomed Butler's new approach, most especially C. Seymour Thompson, it has had a permanent influence on the research agenda of the field, and the new term "library science" became the generally adopted name for the academic study of librarianship.
Late in his career, Butler recanted aspects of the GLS's scientific approach, finding it too quantitative and scientistic, and began to argue for a more humanistic or even spiritual approach. Indeed, "Librarianship had, in fact, been replaced by a pseudo-science, in Butler's opinion. Ideas were supplanted by facts, or even worse, by mere data. The field risked becoming truly anti-intellectual, lost in 'the simplicity of its pragmatism.'"Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
The Lewis Carroll Shelf Award was an American literary award conferred on several books annually by the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education annually from 1958 to 1979. Award-winning books were deemed to "belong on the same shelf" as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, having enough of the qualities of his work.
Seventeen books were named in 1958, including only two from the 1950s. Seven were named in 1979, all except two from the 1970s.
Although short, the last class was also diverse, with one wordless picture book,
The Snowman (1978) by Raymond Briggs, and one fictionalized biography, The Road from Home (1979) by David Kherdian, about his mother's childhood during the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath.
The selection process included nominations by trade paperback editors, who were permitted to name one book annually from their trade catalogs. The Component Analysis Selector Tool rated tradebooks on authenticity, universality, insight, symbol systems–craftsmanship, impact, genre comparison, field setting of reader and test of time.
The purpose was to identify and promote outstanding thoughts among the mediocre communications available in an open society.The list was established by Dr. David C. Davis
with the assistance of Professor Lola Pierstorff, Director Instructional Materials Center, University of Wisconsin, and Madeline Allen Davis, WHA Wisconsin Public Radio. Awards were announced and presented at the annual Wisconsin Book Conference, which featured speakers such as Dr. Seuss, William Steig, Helga Sandburg, Arna Bontemps, Nat Hentoff, Paul Engle, Jean George, Ed Emberley, Charlemae Rollins, Watts poet Jimmy Sherman, Maurice Sendak, Holling C. Holling, Pamela Travers, Ann Nolan Clark, Louise Lemp, Frank Luther, and Ramon Coffman (Uncle Ray).List of Pacific Union College alumni
This is a list of notable alumni of Pacific Union College, a highly ranked private liberal arts college in California's Napa Valley.
Pacific Union College has produced a large number of distinguished alumni for a school of its size. It has been noted for being the "training ground for an inordinately large number of outstanding physicians, dentists, nurses, teachers and theologians" who make up part of its over 50,000 alumni. PUC's notable alumni include members of the United States Congress and California State Assembly; a Harlem Renaissance poet, a professional smooth jazz saxophonist, and others in the arts; multiple presidents of the World Seventh-day Adventist Church, judges, the founder of the Loma Linda University Medical Center, Glendale Adventist Medical Center and Glendale Adventist Hospital; presidents of many institutions of higher education including the University of Houston, La Sierra University and others; among the alumni also numerous scientists, professors, television personalities and even a surgeon in the Japanese Imperial Army.List of librarians
This is a list of notable librarians and people who have advanced libraries and librarianship. Also included are people primarily notable for other endeavors, such as politicians and writers, who have also worked as librarians.South Side Writers Group
The South Side Writers Group (occasionally called South Side Writers' Group) was a circle of African-American writers and poets formed in the 1930s in Chicago, which included Richard Wright, Arna Bontemps, Margaret Walker, Fenton Johnson, Theodore Ward, Garfield Gordon, Frank Marshall Davis, Julius Weil, Dorothy Sutton, Marian Minus, Russell Marshall, Robert Davis, Marion Perkins, Arthur Bland, Fern Gayden, and Alberta Sims. Consisting of some twenty authors, the group championed the New Realism movement and Social realism. The group met at the Abraham Lincoln Centre on South Cottage Grove Avenue near the Bronzeville District.St. Louis Woman
St. Louis Woman is a musical by Harold Arlen (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics). The musical opened at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York on March 30, 1946, and ran for 113 performances. The original cast included Robert Pope (Badfoot), Harold Nicholas (Little Augie), Fayard Nicholas (Barney), June Hawkins (Lilli), Pearl Bailey (Butterfly), Ruby Hill (Della Green), Rex Ingram (Biglow Brown), and Milton J. Williams (Mississippi).It is based upon the novel God Sends Sunday by African-American writer Arna Bontemps.Story of the Negro
Story of the Negro by Arna Bontemps is a children's history book published by Knopf in 1948. It was the first African-American authored book to receive a Newbery Honor. The non-fiction book begins with a history of major African civilizations such as the Ghana and Mandingo Empires. The horrors of the Atlantic slave trade are described, together with the causes and conditions of slavery in America, the Haitian Slave Revolt, and the Underground Railroad. Several influential black leaders are examined, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and W. E. B. Du Bois.
The first edition was illustrated by Raymond Lufkin.Vivian G. Harsh
Vivian G. Harsh (May 27, 1890 – August 17, 1960) was an American librarian. On February 26, 1924, she became the Chicago Public Library system's first black librarian.