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Mon, 01.29.1940

Poet with a stroke of luck, Sterling Plumpp

Sterling Plumpp

*Sterling Plumpp was born on this date in 1940. He is an African American poet, and educator.

From in 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 for them to ride. As a result, they did not start school until they were eight and nine years old, and able to walk the distance. As a young boy, Plumpp never attended school a full year.

At the age of fifteen he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he completed grammar and high school. None-the-less, 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. This award is selected by the graduated seniors. 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 Hornman, Harriet Tubman, Ornate With Smoke, Blues: The Story Always Untold, Half Black, 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 1940's and early 50's. Plumpp does poetry workshops in addition to his work at the University of Illinois Chicago. He is currently working on Steps to Break the Circle about his life in Mississippi.

Plumpp, was a $1 million winner in the Illinois Lottery while at University of Illinois at Chicago since 1971, he retired with emeritus status in December of 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 write, support and nurture the talents of young African-American writers.

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

Tarvis Williams.

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