Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Arna Wendell Bontemps  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult; Young Adult; Children;

Born: 1902 in Alexandria, Louisiana

Died: June 4, 1973 in Nashville, North Carolina

-- Arna Wendell Bontemps on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Bontemps lived in Illinois at different times from 1923 through 1969. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a masters degree in library science in 1943.

Biographical and Professional Information

Arna Wendell Bontemps was an American poet and a noted member of the Harlem Renaissance. He is probably best known for the 1931 novel ''God Sends Sunday'', the 1936 novel ''Black Thunder'', and the 1966 anthology ''Great Slave Narratives''. He also wrote the 1946 play St. Louis Woman with Countee Cullen.Bontemps was a teacher in Chicago from 1923-38. In 1943, after graduating from the University of Chicago with a masters degree in library science, Bontemps was appointed head librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. He held that position for 22 years and developed important collections and archives of African-American literature and culture, namely the ''Langston Hughes Renaissance Collection''. After retiring from the Fisk University in 1966, he worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago until 1969 and Yale University, where he served as curator to the James Weldon Johnson Collection. Through his librarianship and bibliographic work, Bontemps has become a leading figure in establishing African-American literature as a legitimate object of study and preservation.

Published Works

    God Sends Sundays, Harcourt, 1931Popo and Fifina, Children of Haiti, Macmillan, 1932 - written with Langston HughesYou Can’t Pet a Possum, Morrow, 1934Black Thunder, Macmillan, 1936Sad-faced Boy, Houghton Mifflin, 1937Drums at Dusk: a Novel, Macmillan, 1939The Fast Sooner Hound, Arna Bontemps, Houghton Mifflin, 1942 - written with Jack ConroyThey Seek a City, Doubleday, 1945We Have Tomorrow, Houghton Mifflin, 1945Slappy Hooper, the Wonderful Sign Painter, Houghton Mifflin, 1946 - written with Jack ConroyStory of the Negro, Knopf, 1948George Washington Carver, Row, Peterson, 1950Chariot in the Sky: a Story of the Jubilee Singers, Breman, 1963Famous Negro Athletes, Dodd, Mead, 1964Mr. Kelso’s Lion, Lippincott, 1970Free at Last: the Life of Frederick Douglass, Dodd, Mead, 1971Young Booker: Booker T. Washington’s Early Days, Dodd, Mead, 1972The Old South: A Summer Tragedy and Other Stories of the Thirties, Dodd, Mead, 1973100 Years of Negro Freedom,Greenwood Publishing Grp,Inc., 1980

Selected Titles At Your Library

God sends Sunday,
ISBN: 0404001378. OCLC Number:

[AMS Press],. [New York],. [1972, ©1959]

100 years of Negro freedom /
ISBN: 0313222185. OCLC Number:

Greenwood Press,. Westport, Conn. :. 1980, ©1961.


His children's book,

Story of the Negro

, was a 1949 Newbery Honor Book and the Jane Addams Book Award in 1956.