Skip to main content

Calvin C. Hernton lectures at the University of Connecticut

 Digital Record


  • Creation: 1977 March 29


Poet and sociologist Calvin Hernton lectured on 3/29/1977 (2015-0002/RR177 - RR178 [duplicate of RR177]).

Biographical / Historical

Calvin Coolidge Hernton was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States, on April 28, 1932. He studied at Talladega College in Alabama, where he received a B.A. in sociology (1954), and at Fisk University, where he earned a master's degree. In the mid-1950s, he worked as a social worker in New York City. Hernton was briefly a PhD candidate in Sociology at Columbia University in 1961, but realized his love for poetry and instead founded the Umbrella Workshop and co-founded the magazine Umbra, which published a collective of Black writers including Langston Hughes, Ishmael Reed and Alice Walker. In 1965 Hernton produced his most important work, Sex and Racism in America, which looked at the hierarchies of sexual dominance established during the period of slavery had created a latent sexual tension that informs all interracial relations in American society even those that are purely social. That same year, Hernton went to London and worked with the Institute of Phenomenological Studies (1965–69), studying under R. D. Laing. Hernton was active alongside Obi Egbuna, C. L. R. James and others in the Antiuniversity of London. He returned to the U.S. in 1970, and went to Oberlin College as a writer in residence and two years later joined the Black Studies department. During his 29 year tenure at Oberlin College, he published several books of poetry, became the Chair of the Department of African American Studies, became a script writer for the television show "A Man Called Hawk," and published another study, Sexual Tensions and Black Women Writers: Adventures in Sex, Literature, and Real Life. He was a Professor of African-American Studies there until his retirement in 1999. Hernton was the author of nine books that reflect his writings as a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and social scientist, including the bestselling Sex and Racism In America (1965), which was translated into several languages, and the ground-breaking The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers: Adventures in Sex, Literature, and Real Life (1987). His poems were also published in Essence, Evergreen Review and Black Scholar, among other places, and on various recordings and were performed in plays on Broadway and on tour. In 2011 the Chelsea Art Museum recreated a performance of Black Zero, a happening staged by Aldo Tambellini at Group Center on several occasions between 1963 and 1965. Sound recordings of Hernton reciting his poetry were accompanied by improvised performances by Ben Morea and Henry Grimes. Hernton died in Oberlin, Ohio, at the age of 69 in 2001. []


2 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recordings) : RR 177/178 1 reel, Side A-1:04:34, Side B-0:03:59; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. The recordings were combined for ease of listening. The combined run time of the digital recording is 1:08:28.

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.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US