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Thu, 01.26.1899

Playwright May Miller born

May Miller

*On this date we celebrate the birth of May Miller in 1899. She was an African American playwright and poet associated with New York’s Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s.

Born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of a Howard University sociologist, Miller grew up in an intellectual household in which W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington were frequent guests. She graduated from Howard University in 1920, while there she earned an award for her one-act play Within the Shadows. Afterwards she taught secondary school and continued to write.

A prizewinning play, The Bog Guide 1925, helped establish Miller in the Black cultural scene, and she became the most widely published woman playwright of the Harlem Renaissance. She openly addressed racial issues in plays such as Scratches 1929, which commented on color and class bias within the Black community; Stragglers in the Dust 1930, about African-Americans in the military; and Nails and Thorns 1933, which dramatized lynching. She also wrote many historical plays, four of which (including Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth) were anthologized in Negro History in Thirteen Plays 1935.

Miller retired from teaching in 1943 and became a prolific poet, publishing seven volumes that included Into the Clearing 1959 and Dust of Uncertain Journey 1975. She also held several posts as a visiting faculty member. May Miller died on Feb. 8, 1995, Washington, D.C.

Reference:
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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