Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rennaisa* (for Renaissa*)

Dorothy West, born June 2, 1907, was a novelist, columnist, short story writer, and publisher during the Harlem Renaissance. She was brought up in Boston, the daughter of a former slave turned businessman. She was an only child, but had a large extended family, given that her mother was one of 22 [!] children. Dorothy wrote her first story at the age of 7, and had another one published at 14 in the Boston Post. When she was 19, she entered a writing contest sponsored by the Urban League, and tied for first place with Zora Neale Hurston, who was 16 years her senior and would later become a good friend. Dorothy attended Girls Latin School in Boston, Boston University, and the Columbia School of Journalism. She moved to Harlem with her cousin, the poet Helene Johnson, where she met other rising luminaries, such as Countee Cullen, Wallace Thurman, and Langston Hughes. "The Kid," as Dorothy was dubbed by Hughes, accompanied him to Russia in 1932 in order to make a movie about race relations in America. Though the film was never completed, the pair stayed in Russia for a year. During the 1940s, West wrote many short stories for the New York Daily News and had the distinction of being the first black writer to ever appear in those pages. She published the ground-breaking journal Challenge in 1934, along with its successor, New Challenge, and provided a ready conduit for many of her "colored" compatriots. While West only wrote two novels (The Living Is Easy in 1948 and The Wedding in 1995), her overall contribution to the world of letters was such that she was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1996, just two years before her death. Acknowledging the hurdles she had faced as both a woman and a black person, when asked at the age of 91 what she would wish her legacy to be, she simply replied: "That I hung in there. That I didn't say I can't." Thanks for the inspiring words and example, Dorothy! There were 11 occurrences of Renaissance for (renaissance) in OhioLINK today, and 219 in WorldCat.

(Dorothy West, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

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