Poet, mother, activist and lecturer Sonia Sanchez was born Wilsonia Benita Driver on Sept. 9, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama.
She relocated to Harlem in 1943 to live with her dad. New York and Harlem in the 1940s would inspire Sanchez to study poetry and political science. Sanchez is one of the pioneers of the Black Arts Movement, and she has authored more than 16 poetry, children’s books, plays and anthology books.
Sanchez linked with like-minded writers to form a writers workshop in the Greenwich Village neighborhood in New York, and later formed the “Broadside Quartet” with Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni and Etheridge Knight.
Sanchez, like most Black poets of her era, was deeply involved in the civil rights movement. She joined the Nation of Islam for three years, and was swayed by the teachings of Malcolm X after meeting in the civil rights organization Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). She began teaching at what is now San Francisco State University in 1965, and helped to develop a majority of the Black studies courses there. Shortly after in 1969 Sanchez published her first poetry book, Homecoming.
For her accomplishments as a writer and teacher, Sanchez has won countless awards, including the National Education Association Award and the American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades. Sanchez has lectured at more than 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has read her poetry all over the world. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977. She retired in 1999.
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