Wines in the Wilderness: Plays by African American Women from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present

By Elizabeth Brown-Guillory | Go to book overview
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MARITA BONNER (1899-1971)

The Pot Maker ( 1927)


BIOGRAPHY AND ACHIEVEMENTS

Marita Bonner was born in Boston on June 16, 1899. Bonner excelled in German and musical composition at Boston's Brookline High School. Educated at Radcliffe College, she earned a degree in English and comparative literature. After graduation, she taught English in Bluefield, West Virginia, and in Washington, D.C. In 1930, Bonner married William Almy Occomy and moved to Chicago where she nurtured three children. She died on December 6, 1971.

Marita Bonner published essays, plays, reviews, short stories, and serial fictional narratives regularly between 1922 and 1942 in Crisis and Opportunity, for which she frequently was awarded first- and second-place literary prizes. Bonner's preoccupation with the destructiveness of the rural South and the urban North in her writings may have had an influence on Richard Wright and other Chicago Renaissance writers of the 1940s and 1950s.

Her ability to create characters who struggle against interracial and intraracial inequities is equally matched by her skill at portraying poor and middle-class black women who defend themselves against gender-based, societal constraints. Her well-known essay, "On Being Young -- A Woman -- and Colored", published in the December 1925 issue of Crisis, is a landmark document because of its powerful indictment of a society that devalues women and blacks. Though the bulk of her literary career was devoted to fiction, Bonner wrote three noteworthy plays: The Pot Maker (A play to be read), published in Opportunity, 1927; The Purple Flower, published in Crisis, 1928, and Exit, an Illusion, published in Crisis, 1929.

Though her plays were never produced in her lifetime, they were read and savored during the Harlem Renaissance by some of its finest artists, including Georgia Douglas Johnson, May Miller, and Langston Hughes, who would go on to see their own plays produced.

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