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Sun, 12.09.1917

Samuel W. Allen, Author, Educator, and Lawyer born

Samuel W. Allen

*Samuel W. Allen was born on this date in 1917. He was a Black writer, literary scholar, and lawyer. From Columbus, Samuel Washington Allen graduated as valedictorian of Fisk University in 1938 with an AB in sociology, where he studied with James Weldon Johnson. He received a JD from Harvard Law School in 1941.

Drafted into the then-segregated US Army in 1942, he was an officer. After World War II ended, Allen studied at The New School for a year and then went to Paris on the G.I. Bill, looking at the Sorbonne from 1948 to 1949. His first poems appeared in 1949 in Présence Africaine, and his first book of poetry was published in 1956. His 1959 essay "Negritude and Its Relevance to the American Negro Writer" was published in the journal and widely reprinted. 

He practiced law from the 1940s to the 1960s. He was appointed as the Avalon Professor of Humanities at Tuskegee University in 1968. From 1971, he taught literature at Boston University. Allen's work was not well known in the United States until the 1970s when it was published in anthologies edited by Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes. His 1975 poetry collection Paul Vesey's Ledger "traces the long history of oppression against African Americans." Samuel Allen died on June 27, 2015, in Norwood, Massachusetts.

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