Louise Meriwether lectures at the University of Connecticut
- 1971 - 1988
Novelist and essayist Louise Meriwether delivered 14 lectures to the Black Experience in the Arts course, dating from 1971 to 1988.
Biographical / Historical
Louise Meriwether was born in Haverstraw, New York, and grew up in Harlem during the great depression, the only daughter and the third of five children. She graduated from Central Commercial High School in Manhattan and then, while working as a secretary, studied at night for a B.A. degree in English from New York University. She went on to earn an M.A. in journalism in 1965 from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she moved with her first husband, Angelo Meriwether, a Los Angeles teacher. Although this marriage, as well as her second marriage to Earle Howe, ended in divorce she continued to use the name Meriwether. She worked as a freelance reporter (1961–64) for the Los Angeles Sentinel and a black story analyst (1965–67) for Universal Studios,the first black woman hired as a story editor in Hollywood. While still living in Los Angeles, working with the Watts Writers Workshop, Meriwether was approached to be editor-in-chief of a new magazine for Black women called Essence but she declined, saying she preferred to write for them, her article "Black Man, Do You Love Me?" appearing as the cover story for the magazine's first issue in May 1970.
In 1970 she published her first and most successful book,Daddy Was a Number Runner (with a foreword by James Baldwin), a novel that uses autobiographical elements about growing up in Harlem during the Depression and in the era after the Harlem Renaissance, is considered a classic.
Becoming part of a group of young New York-based writer friends that included Rosa Guy and Maya Angelou, Meriwether began writing biographies for children about historically important African Americans — including Robert Smalls, Daniel Hale Williams, and Rosa Parks. Her short stories have appeared in Antioch Review and Negro Digest, as well as in anthologies including Black-Eyed Susans: Classic Stories by and About Black Women (ed. Mary Helen Washington, 1975), Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women (eds Amina Baraka & Amiri Baraka, 1983), The Other Woman (ed. Toni Cade Bambara, 1984) and Daughters of Africa (ed. Margaret Busby, 1992).
Meriwether has also taught creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and at the University of Houston. She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Rabinowitz Foundation.
Meriwether has over the years been involved with various organized black causes, including the founding, with John Henrik Clarke, of the anti-Apartheid group Black Concern (originally the Committee of Concerned Blacks), the Harlem Writers Guild, and (with Vantile Whitfield) the Black Anti-Defamation Association (BADA; also known as Association to End Defamation of Black People) that was formed to prevent Twentieth Century Fox's producer David L. Wolper from making a film of William Styron's controversial 1967 novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, which misinterpreted African-American history. She has been active in the peace movement for most of her life. In her own words, when she was a named as a recipient of the Clara Lemlich Award for Social Activism in 2011.
Meriwether is an executive board member of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc. (OWWA), an NGO co-founded in 1991 by Jayne Cortez and Ama Ata Aidoo "for the purpose of establishing links between professional African women writers".
Existence and Location of Originals
Original audio recordings reside in the University of Connecticut, Black Experience in the Arts Collection, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.
- African American women authors Subject Source: Fast
- African Americans Subject Source: Fast
- African Americans in popular culture Subject Source: Fast
- Black Experience in the Arts Course (University of Connecticut) -- Sound recordings Subject Source: Local sources
- Women educators Subject Source: Fast