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Mon, 10.12.1908

Novelist Ann Petry wrote for all ages

Ann Lane Petry

Ann Lane Petry was born on this date in 1908. She was a Black writer of adult novels and children's literature who chronicled the urban Black female experience.

Petry was born and raised in Seabrook, Connecticut. The daughter of a pharmacist, she majored in pharmacology at the University of Connecticut. After graduating, she worked at and managed the family drugstore.  Petry wrote short stories while working, but none were published. After marrying George Petry, a mystery writer, she moved to New York City to develop her career as a writer. Her first job was at the Amsterdam News, where she worked for four years. Petry moved on to The Peoples Voice, where she wrote a column on Harlem society.

In addition to writing, Petry became involved in community issues. She formed a Black women's consumer advocacy group and established a program in a Harlem school to help children living in crime-ridden neighborhoods. During this period, Petry wrote a few short stories, including "On Saturday Night, the Sirens Sound" and a few others, which ran in the NAACP's newspaper the Crisis, where it caught the attention of editors at Houghton Mifflin. Her first novel, "The Street" (1946), was a resounding success, eventually selling more than two million copies, the first book by a Black woman to do so.

She went on to publish two more novels, "Country Place" and "The Narrows." In addition to her novels, Petry wrote adolescent nonfiction chronicling the lives of historical Black figures. She also wrote two children's books and many essays on a variety of topics. A true visionary and pioneer of multiculturalism and Black feminism, Ann Petry died on April 28, 1997, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

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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