TONI CADE BAMBARA was born Toni Cade on March 25, 1939, in New York City. She and her brother Walter were raised by their mother, Helen Brent Henderson Cade; her father seems to have abandoned the family shortly after her birth. Bambara attended various schools in New York and New Jersey before attending Queens College, receiving a B.A. in theatre arts and English in 1959. In that same year she won the John Golden Award for fiction from Queens College and the Pauper Press Award for nonfiction from the Long Island Star; she also published a short story, " Sweet Town," in Vendome magazine.
After graduation Bambara studied briefly at the University of Florence and the Ecole de Mime Etienne Decroux in Paris before enrolling in an American fiction program at the City College of New York, from which she received a M.A. in 1964. Both in and out of school Bambara held a wide array of positions with various organizations, such as the Colony House in Brooklyn, the Metropolitan Hospital, the Equivalency Program, the Veteran Reentry Program, the 8th Street Play Program, and the Tutorial Program at the Houston Street Public Library. These positions reflected her desire to improve social and educational conditions for the black community. In later years she has been an instructor or artist in residence at various universities, including Rutgers, Stephens College, and Spelman College.
During the 1960s Bambara continued to write short stories, which appeared in such publications as the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Redbook. She also pursued an interest in dance, studying at various schools (including the Katherine Dunham Dance Studio) throughout the decade.
In 1970 Bambara edited an anthology of black American writing entitled The Black Woman. This volume, which contained writings by Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Paule Marshall, and others, was an outgrowth of her work with the SEEK program at the City College of New York. A second anthology followed in 1971, Tales and Stories for Black Folks. This anthology,