Arna Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973)


"Bontemps was born in the city of Alexandria in the U.S. state of Louisiana. the son of Paul Bontemps and Marie Pembrooke Bontemps. His birthplace, once a run-down motel at 1327 Third Street, has been recently restored as the Bontemps African American Museum. When he was three, his family moved to the Watts district of Los Angeles, California. He was graduated from Pacific Union College in California in 1923. After graduation he went to New York to teach at Harlem Academy, where he became a contributor to the Harlem Renaissance. He began writing while a student at Pacific Union College and became the author of many children's books. His critically most important work, The Story of the Negro (1948), received the Jane Addams Book Award and was also a Newbery Honor Book. He is probably best known for the 1931 novel God Sends Sunday. He also wrote the 1946 play St. Louis Woman with Countee Cullen.

In 1943, after graduating from the University of Chicago with a masters degree in library science, Bontemps was appointed librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. He held that position for 22 years and developed important collections and archives of African-American literature and culture. Through his librarianship and bibliographic work, Bontemps became a leading figure in establishing African-American literature as a legitimate object of study and preservation."