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Gwendolyn Bennett was born on this date in 1902. She was an African American poet, essayist, short-story writer, and artist who was a vital figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
Bennett, born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of teachers, grew up on a Nevada Indian reservation, in Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn, New York. She attended Columbia University and Pratt Institute, then studied art in Paris in 1925. She wrote articles and created covers for The Crisis and Opportunity magazines. Her close friendships with many fellow Harlem-based writers resulted in her becoming an Opportunity editor in 1926 and writing a popular literary news column.
Twice widowed, Bennett taught and lived away from New York for long periods. She was suspended from directing the Harlem Community Art Center in 1941 because of suspected Communist associations. Most of Bennett's published work, including two short stories, appeared from 1923 through 1928, and though it is often anthologized, her work has not been collected. Her ballads, odes, sonnets, and protest poetry are notable for their visual imagery; her best-known poem is the sensual “To a Dark Girl.” She died May 30, 1981, in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York