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Al Young was born on this date in 1939. He was a Black poet, writer, and educator.
Born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Young's family lived there until his father was discharged from the Navy. Then the entire family moved to Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from high school, Young attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in Spanish. In 1961, Young moved to San Francisco, where he pursued a music career and worked as a disc jockey, writing instructor, and held various jobs to make ends meet between musical gigs.
Young graduated with honors and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, when Young's first volume of poetry was published. Young has written three books of poetry, five novels, and four books of prose (Black Literature Criticism 2033). His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers such as Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Harpers. Young's writings have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Japanese, Polish, and Chinese.
Young also has written scripts for Dick Gregory, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor. He is the co-founder and editor of the Yardbird Reader and the anthology editor. Young’s honors include the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, and the Wallace Stegner Fellowship Award. He also received National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim, and Fulbright fellowships. Young has been a visiting professor at the University of Washington, Rice University, Bowling Green University, and the University of Michigan.
Al Young lived in Polo Alto, California, for nearly three decades and moved back to Berkeley. In 2005, he was appointed the Poet Laureate of California. He died in April 2021.
Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth.
by Dorothy Abbot
Volume 1, fiction,
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985.