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Sonia Sanchez

Prepared on the Occasion of the Ninth Annual Heart's Day Celebration

"I wish millions of people knew that some of the joy in their lives comes from the fact that Sonia Sanchez is w
riting poetry.  I wish they knew it so they could write her, and thank her, and love her up as I do."
                          ----Maya Angelou

Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez was born Wilsonia Benita Driver on September 9, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her mother died a year later, and Sanchez lived with her paternal grandmother and other relatives for several years. In 1943 she moved to Harlem with her sister to live with their father and his third wife. She earned a B.A. in political science from Hunter College in 1955. She also did postgraduate work at New York University and studied poetry with Louise Bogan. Sanchez formed a writers' workshop in Greenwich Village, attended by such poets as Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), and Larry Neal. Along with Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni, and Etheridge Knight, she formed the "Broadside Quartet" of young poets, introduced and promoted by Dudley Randall. She married and divorced Albert Sanchez, a Puerto Rican immigrant whose surname she has used when writing, and the poet Etheridge Knight, with whom she had three children. During the early 1960s she was an integrationist, supporting the philosophy of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). But after considering the ideas of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, who believed blacks would never be truly accepted by whites in the United States, she focused more on her black heritage from a separatist point of view. Sanchez began teaching in the San Francisco area in 1965 and was a pioneer in developing black studies courses at what is now San Francisco State University, where she was an instructor from 1968 to 1969. In 1971 she joined the Nation of Islam, but by 1976 she had left the Nation, largely because of its repression of women.

Sonia Sanchez is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (Beacon Press, 1999); Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998); Does your house have lions? (1995), which was nominated for both the NAACP Image and National Book Critics Circle Award; Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995); Under a Soprano Sky (1987); Homegirls & Handgrenades (1984), which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; I've Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems (1978); A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1973); Love Poems (1973); Liberation Poem (1970); We a BaddDDD People (1970); and Homecoming (1969).

Her published plays are Black Cats Back and Uneasy Landings (1995), I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't (1982), Malcolm Man/Don't Live Here No Mo' (1979), Uh Huh: But How Do It Free Us? (1974), Dirty Hearts '72 (1973), The Bronx Is Next (1970),and Sister Son/ji (1969). Her books for children include A Sound Investment and Other Stories (1979), The Adventures of Fat Head, Small Head, and Square Head (1973), and It's a New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs (1971). She has also edited two anthologies: We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans (1973) and Three Hundred Sixty Degrees of Blackness Comin at You (1971).

Among the many honors she has received are the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

Sonia Sanchez has lectured at more than five hundred universities and colleges in the United States and had traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway, and Canada. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999. She lives in Philadelphia.

Text: The Academy of American Poets,  photo: Marion Ettlinger

Biographical Information

Women of Color Women of  Words: African American Female Playwrights - The Bronx is next.
Biographical work on the author.

Poetry Exhibits : The Academy of American Poets
Featuring among others ... Sonia Sanchez

Lindback Award Winner Sonia Sanchez
This  award is offered for a career of Distinguished Teaching.  From 1966, Dr Sanchez  taught in various universities, finally assuming a permanent post as resident poet and member of the English faculty at Temple University (Philadelphia) in 1975.  She is now retired from Temple University.

"Art. . . reacts to or reflects the culture it springs from."

                                             ----Sonia Sanchez

Langston Hughes Symposium, Sonia Sanchez
Dr. Sanchez is a poet, mother, activist, professor.  She is a national and international lecturer of Black Culture and Literature;  Women's Liberation; Peace and Racial Justice.

Women & Philanthropy
Keynote Speaker : Sonia Sanchez

I'll Make Me a World
Sonia Sanchez  - - Poet/Playwright

Sonia Sanchez; (Benita)

Sonia Sanchez:  A Scrapbook of Some Activities

Sonia Sanchez and Black Arts Movement
One of the most influential female Black authors of the Black Arts Movement.

Sonia Sanchez...Booklists etc.
"When one reads Sonia Sanchez, one knows the state of Black America."

                                                           ---Linda Duggins

American Studies Today Online
Deferred Dreams : The Voice of African American Women's Poetry since the 1970's.

American Studies, Black History and Literature
Writing Black:  Literature and History written by and on African Americans

Women Writers of Color
Contains an extensive list of writers of color, with hyperlinks to their works. The page also displays biographies on the authors, criticisms of their works, selected bibliographies, and links to related works.

Furious Flowers / Sonia Sanchez : Study Guide

African American Poetry, 1960 - 1995

Sonia Sanchez and Lorenzo Thomas recall the liberation tradition of the 1960s.


Poet Sonia Sanchez

A day with students  at John Carroll University.


International Association of African American Music

Tribute Performer : Sonia Sanchez


1st Annual Benefit Awards Reception 2001

The Nkiru Center for Education & Culture presents the Leothy Miller - Owens Award Recipient:  Sonia Sanchez




Annie Finch : Criticism

Sonia Sanchez:  Excerpts from "Form and Responsibility," in A Formal Feeling Comes


Heath Anthology of American Literature 4/e Sonia Sanchez - Author Page


Anthem Guests : Sonia Sanchez & Charles Rowell on Sterling Brown

Callaloo Remembers Sterling Brown : Poet Sonia Sanchez and Professor Charles Rowell


Literature and Drama History, Criticism & Biography

Videotapes in the Media Resources


Audiovisual Reviews

MC Journal : the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship. Audiovisual Reviews.

For My People : The Life and Writing of Margaret Walker



See volume 22 for Sonia Sanchez.


Voices From the Gaps

Women Writers of Color :  Lists of publishers and individual writers


Poetry : A View of African American Life

Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute


NC - direct Archives: By Author

See: Sonia Sanchez


IRWG Newsletter - Images of Black women, performance/scholarship

Spring symposium to explore images of Black women and the creation of "performance/scholarship"

REEL WOMEN X : A  Decade of Silver Screenings

Women's Studies Film Series

See:  Sonia Sanchez


February 2000 Special Events Calendar

See :  Sonia Sanchez


Works by Sonia Sanchez

Creative Quotations from  Sonia Sanchez
"I cannot tell the truth about anything unless I confess being a student, growing and learning something new every day.  The more I learn, the clearer my view of the world becomes."

                                             -----Sonia Sanchez

Like the Singing Coming Off The Drums

Love Poems by Sonia Sanchez.


Shake Loose My Skin by Sonia Sanchez

A testament to the literary, sensual and political powers of the award-winning poet.

                                                      ---Ann K. van Buren


Under a Soprano Sky

In her writings I feel at home!

In her house I feel at home!

In her presence I feel at home!

                                                  ---Ngugi wa Thiong'o


Wounded in the House of a Friend

"This collection reflects Sister Sanchez's political passions and her commitment to social justice...Sanchez embraces the role of community poet, public poet, poet of the year."

                                                                   ---Kate Rushin, Sojourner


Like the Singing Coming off the Drums

"Sanchez looks deeply into that most dangerous of places... the heart."

                                                  -QBR The Black Book Review


Homegirls & Handgrenades

For which she received an American Book Award


Does Your House Have Lions

Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998


Temple University Bookstore - Sonia Sanchez  (most of her publications can be found at this site)




We are a BaddDDD People


I've Been a Woman : New and Selected Poems


A Sound Investment and Other Stories


We Be World  Sorcerers

Anthology of stories written by African Americans (Sonia Sanchez, editor)


360 Degrees of Blackness Coming at You

Anthology of poems written by her students in a creative writing class in Harlem


Sonia Sanchez, contributing editor to Black Scholar


Sonia Sanchez, contributing editor to Journal of African Studies

Plays  by Sonia Sanchez


The Bronx Is Next

Malcom/Man Don't Live Here No Mo'

Uh Uh

But How Do It Free Us?

Dirty Hearts

Sister Son/Ji


Appointments and Awards Held by Sonia Sanchez


      "a lion in the forest of literature"

                                  ---Maya Angelou


First Presidential Fellow at Temple University


Held the Laura  Carnell Chair in English at Temple


An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Temple University


Lindback Award Winner for Distinguished Teaching


Leothy Miller - Owens Award


The Pen Writing Award


An Academy of Arts and Letters Award


An honorary doctorate from Wilberforce University


National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship


The Lucretia Mott Award


The Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women


An American Book Award


A Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities


A Pew Fellowship in the Arts


The Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom


A Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators


One of the original and most influential female Black authors of the Black Arts Movement.

Researched and prepared by:

Celia C. Daniel, English Bibliographer


February 2002


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