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Mon, 01.29.1940

Sterling Plumpp, Poet, and Educator born

Sterling Plumpp

*Sterling Plumpp was born on this date in 1940. He is a Black poet and educator.

From Clinton, Mississippi, he was reared by his maternal grandparents, Mattie and Victor Emmanuel. They were sharecroppers, and Plumpp and his brother worked the fields with their grandparents. He and his family lived about ten miles from school, and there were no buses to ride. As a result, they did not start school until they were eight and nine years old and could walk the distance. As a young boy, Plumpp never attended school for a full year.

At fifteen, he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he completed grammar and high school. Nonetheless, Plumpp graduated as class valedictorian in 1960. When he went to Chicago in the fall of 1962, he got a job in the main post office at Canal and Van Buren just east of the University of Illinois campus. Later, he spent two terrible years at St. Benedict's College. He quit school and joined the Army for two years. Plumpp was a professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since then, he has won two Amoco-Silver Circle Awards for excellence in teaching.  The graduated seniors select this award. He also won the Carl Sandburg Literary Prize for poetry for his writing of "The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go" in 1983.

He was an advisor for the television production of The Promised Land. He has written numerous books, including Horniman, Harriet Tubman, Ornate With Smoke, Blues: The Story Always Untold, Half Black, and Half Blacker. When Black Rituals was printed in December 1987, Plumpp was writing Superbad and the Hip Jesus, which is about black people and the way they lived in Clinton, Mississippi, in the 1940s and early 50s. Plumpp does poetry workshops in addition to his work at the University of Illinois Chicago. He is working on Steps to Break the Circle about his life in Mississippi.

Plumpp was a $1 million winner in the Illinois Lottery at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 1971; he retired with emeritus status in December 2001. He has traveled to South Africa and Mississippi to gather research material for current and future writing projects before resuming teaching part-time. Plumpp continues to devote time to writing, supporting,ing and nurturing the talents of young African American writers.

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Image: Chicago Tribune

Sterling D. Plumpp, Black Rituals
Chicago: Third World Press,
Copyright, 1972
Tarvis Williams.

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