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Thu, 07.26.1934

Austin ‘Tom’ Clarke, Novelist born

Austin Clarke

*Austin "Tom" Clarke was born on this date in 1934. He was a Black novelist, essayist, journalist, and short-story writer.

Austin Ardinel Chesterfield "Tom" Clarke was born in St. James, Barbados, where he received his early education in Anglican schools. He taught at a rural school for three years. In 1955 he moved to Canada and attended the University of Toronto's Trinity College for two years. Clarke was a reporter at the Timmins Daily Press and the Globe and Mail before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a freelance journalist. He subsequently taught at several American universities, including Yale University (Hoyt fellow), Duke University, and the University of Texas (visiting professor), and helped establish Black studies programs at several universities.

In 1973 he was designated cultural attaché at the Barbadian embassy in Washington, DC. He was later General Manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation in Barbados (1975–77). He was a writer in residence at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec (1977), and at the University of Western Ontario (1978). He became a Canadian citizen in 1981. From 1988 to 1993 he served on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. He was one of the first Canadian writers of African origin, that distinction of first belonging to 19th-Century author Amelia E. Johnson.

In September 2012, at the International Festival of Authors, Clarke was announced as the winner of the $10,000 Harbourfront Festival Prize "on the merits of his published work and efforts in fostering literary talent in new and aspiring writers". Clarke was reported as saying: "I rejoiced when I saw that Authors at Harbourfront Centre had named me this year's winner of the Harbourfront Festival Prize. I did not come to this city on September 29, 1959, as a writer. I came as a student. However, my career as a writer buried any contention of being a scholar and I thank the Authors at Harbourfront Centre for saving me from the more painful life of the 'gradual student.' It is an honor to be part of such a prestigious list of authors."

An outspoken intellectual, he avoided talking about multiculturalism, hoping his term monoculturalism could be accepted by people from both the political left and right. He ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1977 Ontario general election. Among his notable books are novels such as The Polished Hoe (2002), memoirs including Membering (2015), and two collections of poetry, Where the Sun Shines Best (2013) and In Your Crib (2015). Austin Clarke died on June 26, 2016, at the age of 81 in Toronto.

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