Marita Bonner (1899-1971)

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Marita Bonner (June 16, 1899 - December 6, 1971) wrote short stories and essays for various magazines, and also wrote several plays. While enrolled at Radcliffe College, she gained admission into one of Professor Charles T. Copeland’s sought-after writing seminars, and founded a chapter of the black sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. She went on to teach at two different high schools, and was inspired to write her first essay after the death of her parents. That essay, called “On Being Young - a Woman - and Colored,” was published in the magazine The Crisis and won first prize in the magazine's annual competition for non-fiction. One of her plays, The Purple Flower, was also published in The Crisis and won a playwriting contest.

While living in Washington, D.C., Bonner became closely associated with the poet, playwright, and composer Georgia Douglass Johnson, who ran a weekly salon in her home, associated with the New Negro Renaissance. Bonner lived in DC from 1925 to 1930, teachng at Armstrong Technical High School. Bonner eventually went on to focus on teaching mentally handicapped individuals until her death. Bonner’s writings focused on issues of black and women's oppression as well as poverty. She knew how to use one very human detail to make a compelling statement, such as in her short story “The Hands.”

Her work was collected posthumously into a book, Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner Occomy (1987).

info from DC Writers’ Homes:

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

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