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Thu, 03.08.1900

Marcus B. Christian, Poet, and Teacher born

Marcus B. Christian

*Marcus B. Christian was born on this date in 1900. He was a Black poet and educator.

From Mechanicsville (Houma), LA, he was the son of Emanuel and Rebbecca (Harris) Christian, Sr. Marcus Bruce Christian was educated at Houma Academy in New Orleans from 1906-1913. He and his family moved to New Orleans in 1919. Christian also started Bluebird Cleaners in 1926. From 1932-1976, his writing career began and flourished with the Louisiana Weekly, New Orleans, as a poetry editor and a special feature writer.

During this time, he received a complimentary letter from Langston Hughes, and one of his more prolific writings, “McDonogh Day in New Orleans,” was reprinted in the New York Herald Tribune two years later on June 17, 1934. Christian was appointed to Federal Writers’ Project through Dillard University, New Orleans, on April 6, 1936. His writing inspired many other art forms.  Elmer Anderson of Opportunity magazine sent the Christian piece “Men on Horseback” to W.C. Handy to be put to music on August 5, 1936.

He received a letter of encouragement from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on April 2, 1937, and author Sterling Brown requested scholarly help from Christian for his “The Portrait of the Negro as American” in September 1937. With Federal Writers’ Project, he was appointed unit supervisor in 1939.  During this time, he became an authority on the folklore and history of the Blacks in Louisiana, collecting material during the depression. Dillard University employed Christian to organize and supervise the War Information Center in 1943; that same year, he married Ruth Morand of New Orleans.

Also, in 1943, he received a Rosenwald Fellowship to continue work on “The History of the Negro in Louisiana.”  From 1944 - 1950, he was an assistant librarian at Dillard University. Christian was a member of the Les Cenelles Society of Arts and Letters and an Arthur Spingarn Crisis Outstanding Book Award recipient in 1948 for The Common People’s Manifesto. He also participated in the Deep South Human Relations Seminar at Xavier University in April 1963.

In 1965, he received the Sesquicentennial Commission of the Battle of New Orleans bronze medal. Later in his life, Christian was a Writer-in-residence, instructor of Louisiana Negro History, and director of the poetry workshop from 1969-1976.   In 1976, Marcus B. Christian collapsed in a classroom and died days later at Charity Hospital.

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