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Bontemps, Arna Wendall: Home

Written by Heather Dent

Arna Wendall Bontemps

Early Life, Education, and Career

Arna Wendall, son of Paul Bismark and Maria (Pembrooke) Bontemps, was born October 13, 1902 in Alexandria, Louisiana. He earned his B.A. from Pacific Union College, California in 1923, and his M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1943. He married Alberta Johnson in 1926 and had six children: Joan Marie, Paul Bismark, Poppy Alberta, Camille Ruby, Constance Rebecca, and Arna Alex.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Mr. Bontemps served as a high school teacher and principal from 1924-1941. For a few years thereafter he simply worked as a freelance writer. From 1943-1965 he worked as the head librarian at Fisk University, Nashville, and then as the public relations director.

Mr. Bontemps was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, P.E.N., Authors League of America, Dramatists Guild, American Library Association, Sigma Pi Phi, and Omega Psi Phi.


Crisis Poetry Prize, 1926; Alexander Poetry Prize, 1926-1927; Opportunity Short Story Prize, 1932; the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing 1949-1950, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 1956.
Berea College awarded Arna Wendall Bontemps the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature in 1973.

List of Works

God Sends Sunday, Harcourt, 1931.
Popo and Fifina Children of Haiti, Macmillan,1932.
You Can’t Pet a Possum, Morrow, 1934.
Black Thunder, Macmillan, 1936.
Sad Faced Boy, Houghton, 1937.
Drums at Dusk, Macmillan, 1939.
Golden Slippers, Harper, 1941.
Father of the Blues, Macmillan, 1941.
The Fast Sooner Hound, Houghton, 1942.
They Seek a City, Doubleday, 1945.
We Have Tomorrow, Houghton, 1945.
Slappy Hooper, the Wonderful Sign Painter, Houghton, 1946.
Story of the Negro, Knopf, 1948.
The Poetry of the Negro: 1746 to 1949, Doubleday, 1949.
George Washington Carver, Row, Peterson &Co., 1950.
Chariot in the Sky, Winston, 1951.
Sam Patch, the High, Wide, and Handsome Jumper, Houghton, 1951.
The Story of George Washington Carver, Grosset, 1954.
Lonesome Boy, Houghton, 1955.
The Book of Negro Folklore, Dodd, 1958.
Fredrick Douglass: Slave Fighter, Freeman, Knopf, 1958.
100 Years of Negro Freedom, Dodd, 1961.
American Negro Poetry, Hill &Wang, 1963.
Personals, Breman, 1964.
Famous Negro Athletes, Dodd, 1964.

“St. Louis Woman,” with Countee Cullen, 1946.
“Free and Easy,” 1949.


Works Cited

Who’s Who in America 1968-1969. The A.N. Marquis Company. Chicago. January 1, 1969. Print. 

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