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Sun, 06.02.1907

Dorothy West, a Renaissance woman

Dorothy West

This date recalls the birth of Dorothy West in 1907. She was an African American writer, social activist, and prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance.

She was a talented woman from a prominent Boston family. West published her first story, “The Typewriter,” in 1926. It won second place in a contest sponsored by the Urban Leagues magazine, Opportunity.  She traveled to the Soviet Union in 1936, taking part in a documentary about racism in America.  Upon returning, West co-founded the writing journal Challenge. In it, she published works by many important writers on a wide range of social and political issues.

She worked as an investigator for the New York City welfare department and was involved with the Work Progress Administrations (WPA) Federal Writers Project. In 1940, Dorothy West landed a job writing for the New York Daily News. She was one of the first African American women ever to receive a byline in a large publication. She moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1947, writing for the Vineyard Gazette, completing her first novel The Living Is Easy (1948), and publishing a collection of essays The Richer, The Poorer: Stories, Sketches and Reminiscences, in 1994.

Her novel, The Wedding, was produced as a television movie. Dorothy West died in 1998.

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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