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Marita Bonner

June 16, 1898 – December 6, 1971

Inducted in 2017

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Short stories

“The Hands–A Story” Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life 3 (1925)

“The Prison-Bound” The Crisis 32 (1926)

“Nothing New” The Crisis 33 (1926)

“One Boy's Story” The Crisis 34 (1927: pseudonym: Joseph Maree Andrew)

“Drab Rambles” The Crisis 34 (1927)

“A Possible Triad of Black Notes, Part One” Opportunity 11 (1933)

“A Possible Triad of Black Notes, Part Two: Of Jimmie Harris” Opportunity 11 (1933)

“A Possible Triad of Black Notes, Part Three: Three Tales of Living Corner Store” Opportunity 11 (1933)

“Tin Can” Opportunity 12 (1934)

“A Sealed Pod” Opportunity 14 (1936)

“Black Fronts” Opportunity 16 (1938)

“Hate is Nothing” The Crisis 45 (1938: pseudonym: Joyce M. Reed)

“The Makin's” Opportunity 17 (1939)

“The Whipping” The Crisis 46 (1939)

“Hongry Fire” The Crisis 46 (1939)

“Patch Quilt” The Crisis 47 (1940)

“One True Love” The Crisis 48 (1941)

 

Essays

“On Being Young–A Woman–And Colored” The Crisis (1925)

“The Young Blood Hungers” The Crisis 35 (1928)

“Review of Autumn Love Cycle, by Georgia Douglas Johnson” Opportunity 7 (1929)

 

Drama

“The Pot-Maker (A Play to be Read)” Opportunity 5 (1927)

“The Purple Flower” The Crisis (1928)

“Exit–An Illusion” The Crisis 36 (1929)

 

Collected work

Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner (1987)

And then you can, when Time is ripe, swoop to your feetat your full heightat a single gesture. Ready to go where? Why…Wherever God motions.

Marita Bonner, an accomplished short story writer, playwright and essayist, was a black woman who left Boston for Chicago in the thirties and lived there until her death in 1971. At Radcliffe College, despite being barred from living in the college’s dormitories, she majored in English and Comparative Literature, also studying German and musical composition. From 1924-1941, Bonner published short stories and essays in African American journals such as OpportunityThe Crisis, and Black Life, illuminating the lives and struggles of urban black women as they fought to improve the lot of themselves and their families in Harlem and Chicago. These included her landmark 1925 essay On Being YoungA WomanAnd Colored, which was published in The Crisis and which exemplified her ferocious exploration of the enormous prejudices—class, race, and gender—barring opportunity. In 1930, Bonner married William Almy Occomy and moved to Chicago, where she raised three children and later taught school, first at Phillips High School and then Dolittle School, which served educationally deprived students. Her best-known works are her plays The Purple Flower (1928) and The Pot Maker (1927), as well as her Frye Street stories, set in a multi-ethnic, strife-torn Chicago. Distinguished Chicago literary scholar Richard Guzman notes that her 1926 short story, “Nothing New,” introduced her fictional street as one not only of hardship, but promise. He also credits Bonner for influencing writers such as Alice Browning and Era Bell Thompson. A collection of her work was published in 1987 as Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner.

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