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Sarah Elizabeth Wright


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(1928–2009), poet, novelist, and lecturer.

Sarah Elizabeth Wright was born in Wetipquin, Maryland, began writing in the third grade, and was encouraged to continue. While a student at Howard University, she was inspired by Sterling A. Brown, Owen Dodson, and Langston Hughes. Throughout her career, she demonstrated a thirst for knowledge and the need to share her craft. As a result, she was a Certified Poetry Therapist, presented readings, lectured, and taught in a number of forums, including television and radio talk shows, high schools, community centers, libraries, and YMCAs, and spoke at the United Nations International Writers Day celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1993). Wright participated in poetry workshops and was a member of the Harlem Writer's Guild. She helped organize the First (1959) and the Second National Conference of Black Writers and the Congress of American Writers (1971). She was president of Pen & Brush, Inc. (1992–1993), the oldest professional organization of women in the United States. Her professional memberships include PEN, the Authors Guild, and the International Women's Writing Guild. Although she was not a prolific writer, her work was excellent, honest, and life-affirming. She received numerous awards, including two MacDowell Colony fellowships for creative writing, the 1975 CAPS Award for Fiction, the 1976 Howard University Novelist-Poet Award, the Middle Atlantic Writers Association Award, and the Zora Neale Hurston Award. Her work has been included in Freedomways; the Amsterdam News (New York); the Black Scholar; the African American Review; Confrontation; Southern Voices, edited by John O. Killens and Jerry Ward; Court of Appeal, edited by the staff of the Black Scholar; and Fidel and Malcolm X, edited by Rosemari Mealy.

Wright's first book, Give Me a Child (1955), was coauthored with Lucy Smith. It is a collection of poetry designed to make poetry accessible to the general public through its subject matter and presentation. Her first novel, This Child's Gonna Live (1969) was chosen by the New York Times as one of 1969's most important books and by the Baltimore Sun for the 1969 Readability Award. It is set in Tangierneck, Maryland, and is the story of Mariah Upshur, who struggles against oppressing forces during the depression and refuses to totally succumb to hopelessness. It emphasizes the need for women to be independent and define themselves regardless of race, community, men, or society. Simultaneously, it presents an objective view of Jacob Upshur and points out that men, too, are victims of their definition and the forces that impact them. In 1994, the Feminist Press reissued the novel and Pen & Brush, Inc. celebrated both the novel's silver anniversary and the fact that it had been on sale constantly since 1969. Her third book, A. Philip Randolph, Integration in the Workplace (1990), was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books for Young Adults published in 1990. From the mid-1990s until her death, Wright was working on the sequel to her first novel, tentatively entitled “Twelve Gates to the City, Halleluh! Halleluh!


Subjects: Literature

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