Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-1981)

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Gwendolyn Bennett, NYPL Schomberg Ctr.jpg

Gwendolyn Bennett (July 8, 1902 - May 30, 1981) wrote poetry and short stories during the Harlem Renaissance, although she never collected her work for publication in book form. She was also a visual artist, working in painting, drawing, and batik. Bennett was the first African American person to join the literary society at Brooklyn Girls’ High. Twenty-two of Bennett’s poems were published in journals such as Palms, The Crisis and Gypsy, and others were published in several anthologies. She was later part of the editorial board for Fire!! and wrote a column for Opportunity magazine from 1926 to 1928 called “The Ebony Flute.”

Bennett’s poems became less focused on lighthearted, personal themes as she became more attuned to the shifts in society, and later in her career she focused more on assisting others in their artistic pursuits than creating her own works. She was part of the Harlem Artists Guild, served as director of the Harlem Community Arts Center for several years, was part of the Board of the Negro Playwright’s Guild, and oversaw the development of the George Washington Carver Community School. In this way Bennett made quite an impact on the lives of African American youth interested in the arts.

Bennett lived in DC as a child, from 1907 to 1910, and moved back as an adult, to teach in the Art Department at Howard University (1926 - 1929).

info from Beltway Poetry Quarterly: DC Writers’ Homes:

written by Word Works intern Monica Root, September 2013, edited by Kim Roberts January 2016.

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