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Carolyn Rodgers, a Black writer, poet, and educator, was born on this date in 1945.
Born in Chicago, Carolyn Marie Rodgers attended the University of Illinois in 1960, but transferred to Chicago's Roosevelt University one year later and received her BA in 1965. She began writing as a college freshman. In 1980, she earned a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago. She achieved a national reputation as a writer whose works largely relate to her concern with feminist issues and a particular concern for Black women.
Her poems include "Paper Soul" (1968) and "Songs of a Blackbird" (1969) which hold a strong thematic connection to the ideologies of Black revolutionary thought. Her works also include comments on the roles of women, female identity, and the relationships between mother and daughter. Following the publication and success of "Paper Soul," Rodgers was presented with the first Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Fund Award (1968). After the publication of "Songs of a Blackbird," Rodgers received the Poet Laureate Award from the Society of Midland Authors in 1970. Rodgers also received an award from the National Endowment of the Arts. Two other volumes of her poetry, "The Heart As Ever Green" (1978) and "how I got ovah" (1975) also shed light on these and other feminist issues.
Rodgers met one of her mentors, Hoyt Fuller, while working as a social worker at the YMCA (1963-1966). Rodgers exhibits clarity of expression and a respect for well-crafted language in her work, "how I got ovah: New and Selected Poems" (1975). Her work, "The Heart As Ever Green" (1978), incorporates themes of human dignity, feminism, love, Black consciousness, and Christianity. Rodgers has also published short stories such as "Blackbird in a Cage" (1967), "A Statistic, Trying to Make It Home" (1969), and "One Time" (1975).
In her short stories, as in her poetry, the dominating theme is survival, though she interweaves the idea of adaptability and conveys the concomitant message of life's ever-changing avenues for black people whom she sees as her special audience.
During her career she has taught at Columbia College (1968-1969); University of Washington (1970); Malcolm X Community College (1972); Albany State College (1972); and Indiana University (1973). She has also been a book critic for the Chicago Daily News and a columnist for the Milwaukee Courier. In 1967, along with Haki R. Madhubuti, Johari Amini, and Roschell Rich, Rodgers helped found Third World Press, an outlet for African American literature. Rodgers is also a member of the Organization of Black American Culture, a group that promotes a city-wide impact on cultural activity in the arts.
VG: Voices From the Gaps,
Department of English,
207 Lind Hall,
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455,