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Calvin Hernton

Mentored Avery Brooks

The following year, Hernton was hired as writer-inresidence at Oberlin College in Ohio, and in 1973 he became professor of black studies and creative writing there. The post was beneficial both for Hernton, who found that the position gave him newfound stability, and for his students, who included future Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star Avery Brooks. In the 1980s, Hernton carried mentorship to a new level by writing television scripts for another Brooks series, A Man Called Hawk.

Hernton also published several books over the course of his teaching career at Oberlin. Scarecrow was issued in 1974, as was The Cannabis Experience: The Study of the Effects of Marijuana and Hashish. Medicine Man, a collection of his poetry, appeared in 1976. In 1987 Doubleday published Hernton's Sexual Mountains and Black Women Writers: Adventures in Sex, Literature, and Real Life. That book was again ahead of the curve; Hernton explored the reactions of African-American women writers to abusive treatment, and his work was praised by members of the growing black feminist movement.

At a Glance...

Born on April 28, 1934, in Chattanooga, TN; died of cancer on October 1, 2001, in Oberlin, OH; son of Magnolia Jackson; married Mildred Webster, May 28, 1958 (deceased); married Mary O'Callaghan; children: Antone (first marriage). Education: Talladega College, BA, 1954; Fisk University, MA, sociology, 1956; attended Columbia University, 1961.

Career: Writer. Benedict College, Columbia, SC, instructor in history and sociology, 1957-58; Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College (now University), Normal, instructor in social sciences, 1958-59; Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, FL, instructor in sociology, 1959-60; Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, LA, instructor in sociology, 1960-61; New York State Department of Welfare, New York City, social worker, 1961-62; Umbra (magazine), New York City, co-founder, 1963; London Institute of Phenomenological Studies, London, England, research fellow, 1965-69; Central State University, Wilberforce, OH, poet-in-residence, 1970; Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, writer-in-residence, 1970-72; Oberlin College, professor of black studies and creative writing, 1973-99.

Remaining active at Oberlin until his retirement in 1999, Hernton wrote a new book of poems, The Red Crab Gang and Black River Poems, served as illustrator for Muntu, a book about African culture, and collaborated in editing a collection of stories by author Chester Himes. In 2000 he participated in a major conference on hip-hop music that was held at Oberlin. He died of cancer at his home on October 1, 2001, survived by his wife Mary, whom he had married after the death of his first wife in 1982. Although Sex and Race in America remained his best-known work, he thought of himself as a poet first and foremost.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - PersonalCalvin Hernton Biography - Worked In Welfare Office, Traced Sexual Tensions To Slavery, Mentored Avery Brooks - Selected writings