By Philip Bader
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Bonner published three plays: The Pot-Maker: A Play to Be Read, in 1927, The Purple Flower, in 1928, and Exit, an Illusion: A One-Act Play, in 1929. Though never produced in her lifetime, these plays were highly regarded and influential among her contemporaries in the Harlem Renaissance. Bonner employed several innovations, including second-person narrative and surrealistic allegory, in portraying characters who confront their personal limitations within a broader environment of racial injustice and addressing a potentially violent reaction to continued racial oppression by white society.
In 1932 Bontemps won an award from the National Urban League’s Opportunity magazine for his short story “A Summer Tragedy,” a moving tale of an elderly couple worn out by their lives as sharecroppers. That same year, Bontemps collaborated with Langston Hughes on the successful children’s novel Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti (1932). Bontemps published another children’s book, You Can’t Pet a Possum, in 1934. Bontemps had reluctantly moved to Huntsville, Alabama, in 1931, to assume a teaching position at Oakwood Junior College.
William Wells Brown is generally considered to be the first African-American novelist. (Library of Congress) 34 Brown, William Wells Year’s Day in 1834, while on a trip to Cincinnati with his new master’s family. Traveling by night to Cleveland, he received assistance from Wells Brown and his wife, Quakers to whom Brown paid tribute by adopting the husband’s name. ) During the next nine years, Brown married a free African-American woman, with whom he had two children, and he worked on a steamboat on Lake Erie and as a conductor for the Underground Railroad in New York.