Sonia Sanchez

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Sonia Sanchez
Sonia-sanchez-2013 13.JPG
Sonia Sanchez, 2013
Born (1934-09-09) September 9, 1934 (age 80)
Birmingham, Alabama
United States
Occupation poet, columnist, dramatist, essayist
Nationality American
Ethnicity African American, and Native American
Education Hunter College;
New York University,
Notable awards Robert Frost Medal (2001)

Sonia Sanchez (born Wilsonia Benita Driver, September 9, 1934) is an African-American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. She has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books. She was a recipient of 1993 Pew Fellowships in the Arts.

Early life[edit]

Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 9, 1934.[1] Her mother died when Sanchez was only a year old, so she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother. She then lived with family and friends until 1943, when she moved to Harlem to live with her father, her sister, and her stepmother, who was her father's third wife. In 1955, Sanchez received a B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, where she had also taken several creative writing courses. Later, she completed postgraduate work at New York University, where she studied poetry with Louise Bogan.

Although her first marriage to Albert Sanchez did not last, Sonia Sanchez would retain her professional name. Sanchez then married poet Etheridge Knight. They later divorced. In 1972, she joined the Nation of Islam, but left the organization after three years in 1975 because her views on women's rights conflicted with theirs. She has three children and three grandchildren.[2][3]


She taught 5th Grade in NYC at the Downtown Community School, until 1966. Sanchez has taught as a professor at eight universities and has lectured at over 500 college campuses across the US, including Howard University. She advocated the introduction of Black Studies courses in California. Sanchez was the first to create and teach a course based on Black Women and literature in the United States. Sanchez was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began working in 1977, where she held the Laura Carnell chair until her retirement in 1999. She is currently a poet-in-residence at Temple University. She has read her poetry in Africa, the Caribbean, China, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, Canada, and Cuba. In 2000, Sanchez has also appeared twice on Bill Cosby's CBS show.[4]

Sanchez is a member of the Plowshares, the Brandywine Peace Community and MADRE. She also supports MOMS AND in Alabama and the National Black United Front. Sanchez was a very influential part of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement. Sanchez was an advocate for the people. She was a member of CORE (Congress for Racial Equality), where she met Malcolm X. She wrote many plays and books that had to do with the struggles and lives of Black America. Sanchez has edited two anthologies on Black literature, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans and 360° of Blackness Coming at You.

Sanchez is also known for her innovative melding of musical formats—like the blues—and traditional poetic formats like haiku and tanka. She also tends to use incorrect spelling to get her point across.

In 1969, Sanchez was awarded the P.E.N. Writing Award. She was awarded the National Education Association Award 1977–1988. She also won the National Academy and Arts Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in 1978–1979. In 1985, she was awarded the American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades. She has also been awarded the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, and the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

One of her more recent contemporary endeavors includes a spoken word interlude on "Hope is an Open Window" a song co-written by Diana Ross from her 1998, "Every Day is a New Day" album. The song is featured as the sound bed for a tribute video to 9/11 which can be viewed on YouTube.

Sanchez became Philadelphia's first Poet Laureate, after being appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter. She served in that position from 2012 to 2014.[5]




Children's Books

  • It's a New Day (1971)
  • A Sound Investment
  • The Adventures of Fat Head, Small Head, and Square Head, The Third Press, 1973, ISBN 978-0-89388-094-1




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rodriguez, Raquel (2006). "Sanchez, Sonia (1934–)". In Elizabeth Ann Beaulieu. Writing African American Women: An Encyclopedia of Literature by and about Women of Color. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwoodcacca Press. pp. 764–8. ISBN 0-313-33197-9. 
  2. ^ Emmanuel Sampath Nelson, ed. (2004). African American Dramatists: an A-to-Z guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-32233-4. 
  3. ^ Avital H. Bloch, Lauri Umansky, ed. (2005). Impossible to hold: women and culture in the 1960's. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-9910-9. 
  4. ^ TV Guide
  5. ^ "Philadelphia names Sonia Sanchez first poet laureate", Temple News Center, January 28, 2012. Retrieved on November 21, 2024

External links[edit]