Graphic Classics Volume 22: African-American Classics
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About the Author
Jean Toomer (1894-1967) was an American poet and novelist, and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He was born in Washington, DC. Literature was his first love and he regularly contributed avant garde poetry and short stories to such magazines as Dial, Broom, Secession, Double Dealer, and Little Review. After a literary apprenticeship in New York, Toomer taught school in rural Georgia. His experiences there led to the writing of his seminal novel, Cane.
Charles Chesnutt (1858-1932) was an African American author, lawyer, and political activist. Born in Cleveland to a family of "free persons of color" from North Carolina, Chesnutt spent his youth in Ohio before returning to the South after the Civil War. As a teenager, he worked as a teacher at a local school for Black students and eventually became principal at a college established in Fayetteville for the purpose of training Black teachers. Chesnutt married Susan Perry--with whom he had four daughters--in 1878 and moved to New York City for a short time before settling in Cleveland, where he studied law and passed the bar exam in 1887. His story "The Goophered Grapevine," published the same year, was the first story by an African American to appear in The Atlantic. Back in Ohio, Chesnutt started the court stenography business that would earn him the financial stability to pursue a career as a writer. He wrote several collections of short stories, including The Conjure Woman (1899) and The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color-Line (1899), both of which explore themes of race in America and African American identity as well as employ African American Vernacular English. Chesnutt was also an active member of the NAACP throughout his life, writing for its magazine The Crisis, serving on its General Committee, and working with such figures as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.
Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. An author of four novels (Jonah's Gourd Vine, 1934; Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937; Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939; and Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948); two books of folklore (Mules and Men, 1935, and Tell My Horse, 1938); an autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942); and over fifty short stories, essays, and plays. She attended Howard University, Barnard College and Columbia University, and was a graduate of Barnard College in 1927. She was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, and grew up in Eatonville, Florida. She died in Fort Pierce, in 1960. In 1973, Alice Walker had a headstone placed at her gravesite with this epitaph: "Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South."
Jim Webb is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and the author of several books. As a Marine in Vietnam he received the nation's second and third highest awards for combat heroism. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. From 2007-2013 he represented Virginia in the US Senate.