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Fri, 08.21.1896

Roarck Bradford, Writer, and Editor born

Roark Bradford

*Roark Bradford was born on this date in 1896. He was a white-American short story writer and novelist.

From Lauderdale County, Tennessee, Roark Whitney Wickliffe Bradford attended the University of California, Berkeley, and served as a first lieutenant in the Coast Artillery. He did most of his newspaper work for The Times-Picayune, where he worked or socialized with Lyle Saxon, William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, and many other aspiring writers. Bradford became Sunday editor of the Times-Picayune before leaving to devote himself full-time to writing fiction in 1926.

Early success came when Bradford's story "Child of God" appeared in Harper's magazine in 1927 and was later awarded an O. Henry Prize as one of the year's best short stories. He married Lydia Sehorn, divorcing her in July 1933 after having only one son Richard Bradford. He then married Mary Rose Sciarra Himler, a writer, in Carlsbad, New Mexico. In the next decade, Bradford published eight books and produced well-received work during the 1930s and early 1940s. He served in the US Naval Reserve Bureau of Aeronautics Training during World War II. In 1946, he accepted a visiting lecturer in the English department at Tulane University in New Orleans.

At the time of his death, Bradford's writings were very popular. Since the 1940s, however, much of his body of work has been re-evaluated. Many criticize his work (as a white author) as patronizing and demeaning in portraying black characters. The author's main fictional focus was rural southern African American life, emphasizing religion and folklore.

Bradford's treatment of his subject matter and his characters' actions and speech are problematic, to say the least, for contemporary readers since they reinforce racial stereotypes and often contain outright over-romanticizing. Moreover, much of the humor is flat and dated.  In the 21st century, some of his works could be seen as cultural appropriation.

Marc Connelly adapted Ol' Man Adam and His Chillun for the stage as The Green Pastures, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Six years later, the film adaptation gave Black actors Rex Ingram and Eddie Anderson star status. His stage adaption of John Henry appeared in New York City in 1940. His work appeared in Collier'sHarper's, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Roark Bradford died in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 13, 1948. He died of amoebiasis, believed, contracted while in French West Africa in 1943. His ashes were spread over the waters of the Mississippi River.

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