Arna Bontemps Part 2 of 15 Black Author Series

Arna Bontemps October 13, 1902 – June 4, 1973

Bontemps was born in Louisiana but moved with his family to Watts, California when he was three. Some people know all of their lives what they want to be when they come of age, and Bontemps was no different. Knowing he wanted to be a writer Bontemps spent a great deal of his time reading and writing, and at the age of twenty-two, he published his first poetic piece, A Record of the Darker Races in Crisis Magazine, the magazine was published by the NAACP.

In 1924 Bontemps moved to New York, and like many other aspiring artists, he would become a part of the Harlem Renaissance along with other black notables such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and many others. Many people thought that Hughes and Bontemps were related due to their physical likeness.

In 1943 Bontemps received his Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Chicago and became a librarian at Fisk University. In 1969 Bontemps became the curator of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection at Yale University, and in 1971 he was a writer in residence back at Fisk University. Bontemps was working on his autobiography when he died of a heart attack in 1973.

Bontemps earned many accomplishments and did some great things in his career, but never reached the status Hughes, Hurston, and Wright would reach. Black Thunder, which is considered Bontemps’s best work, was published in 1936.

The Writer

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