SONIA SANCHEZ was born Wilsonia Driver on September 9, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, to Lena and Wilson L. Driver. Sonia's mother died when she was one, and she and her sister Pat spent several years with various relatives before being taken by their father to New York City. There Sanchez attended public schools and then Hunter College, where she received a B.A. in 1955. After graduating, she entered a graduate program at New York University but withdrew after a year.
Sanchez became swept up in the revolutionary social movements of the 1960s. Her first two collections of poetry, Home Coming (1969) and We a BaddDDD People (1970), reflect her militant, antiwhite stance, inspired in part by the example of Malcolm X. She incorporates dialect and profanity into her pithy, biting poems, and the tone is usually combative. Sanchez unleashed some of her rage at America's Anglocentric educational system. Her criticisms, however, were followed by suggestions, and she has become a powerful advocate of black studies programs.
Sanchez herself began a long teaching career in 1965 at the Downtown Community School in New York. After stints at several universities, including San Francisco State College, the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Amherst, and the University of Pennsylvania, she joined the staff of Temple University in Philadelphia in 1977, where she is currently a professor in the departments of English and women's studies. Her anthology, Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees of Blackness Comin at You (1972), collects poetry written by her students in a creative writing class in Harlem.
In 1968 Sanchez married activist Etheridge Knight, with whom she had three children. The marriage, however, was troubled, and Sanchez and Knight later divorced. This experience may perhaps have helped to make her aware of the increasing tensions between black men and black women, which she has addressed both in poems and in the play Uh Huh: But How Do It Free Us? (1975). Sanchez has written several other plays, including