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Sun, 05.09.1897

Rudolph Fisher, Renaissance man

Rudolph Fisher

Rudolph Fisher was born in Washington, DC on this date in 1897. He was a Black physician, gastroenterology specialist, novelist, short story writer, dramatist, musician, and orator.

Brought up in Providence, Rhode Island, his parents, John Wesley Fisher, a clergyman, and Glendora Williamson Fisher had three children.   In 1915, young Fisher graduated from Providence’s Classical High School and Brown University with a B.A., majoring in English and Biology.  In 1920, he received an M.A. from Brown.  During this time at Brown, Fisher’s public speaking skills won him the first Caesar Misch Premium (in German) in his freshman year; first prize in the Carpenter Prize Speaking Contest in his sophomore year; the Dunn Premium in his junior year; and he delivered one of the three orations at his commencement program.

Representing Brown, in 1917, he won first prize at an intercollegiate public speaking contest at Harvard. In 1924, Fisher graduated from the Howard University Medical School. Fisher married Jane Ryder, a graduate of Miner’s Teachers College and a grade-school teacher, while in Washington that same year.  Their only son, Hugh, was born in 1926.

Fisher wittily gave his son the nickname, “The New Negro.” Though most noted for his literary works he was an accomplished musician, arranging a number of songs for Paul Robeson’s first New York concert. Fisher is considered one of the major or key literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Along with Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Hurston, and Wallace Thurman made up the core of the young writers who launched the Renaissance movement. This truly Renaissance man short life (he lived for 37 years) was filled with academic, oratorical, and literary undertakings.

He was an active and dominant part of the African American literary bohemia that dominated Black literature in the 1920s and early 1930s. Rudolph Fisher died on December 26, 1934.

Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History
Volume 1, ISBN #0-02-897345-3, Pg 175
Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West

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