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J. Saunders Redding:

An Exhibition

Janurary 17, 2012 – April 27, 2012

curated by
Tim Murray

J. Saunders Redding Exhibition Poster.

This exhibition celebrates the life and career of prominent African American author, critic, and educator J. Saunders Redding.

James Thomas Saunders Redding was born in Wilmington in 1906, the third of seven children.  His parents were alumni of Howard University and instilled in their children the value of education and all seven went on to college and had successful careers.  Redding’s older brother Lewis became the first African American attorney admitted to the bar in Delaware and was a member of the NAACP legal team that challenged school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Like his brother Lewis, J. Saunders Redding graduated from Brown University; he also did graduate work at Brown and Columbia University.  He began his distinguished academic career as an academic at Morehouse College (1928-31).  He later taught at Louisville Municipal College (1934-36), Southern University (1936-38), and served as head of the English Department, Elizabeth City State College (1938-43).  He worked at Hampton Institute (1943-55), as professor of literature and creative writing. He was a member of the faculty at George Washington University (1968-69), and was the first African American to hold the rank of professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and the first to hold an endowed chair at Cornell University (1970).  He was twice a Guggenheim Fellow (1944-45, 1959-60). 

J. Saunders Redding wrote a well-received novel, Stranger and Alone (1950) and two published memoirs--On being Negro in America (1951) and No Day of Triumph (1942)–but he is best known for his historical and critical writing, particularly his groundbreaking first book To Make a Poet Black (1939).   “J. Saunders Redding: an Exhibition” displays examples of his published work as well as books from his personal library.

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