Lorenzo Thomas (poet)

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Lorenzo Thomas
Lorenzo Thomas.png
Born (1944-08-31)August 31, 1944
Died July 4, 2005(2005-07-04) (aged 60)
Nationality Panamanian
Occupation Poet
Years active 1973-2005
Known for Umbra Workshop

Lorenzo Thomas (August 31, 1944 – July 4, 2005) was an American poet and critic. He was born in the Republic of Panama and grew up in New York City, where his family immigrated in 1948. In 1973, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas. Thomas had a two decade career as a professor at the University of Houston–Downtown.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Thomas was born in Panama to Afro-Caribbean parents. His father, a pharmacist, was from Saint Vincent and his mother, a community activist, was Jamaican, born in Costa Rica.[3][4] As a child in NYC, he attended Duke Ellington Elementary School (P.S. 140;) Edgar D. Shimer Junior High School (P.S. 142;) and Andrew Jackson High School.

Thomas was a graduate of Queens College in New York with a B.A. in English Literature, and minor in History & Communication Arts (Radio and Television.) He pursued graduate work towards an M.L.S. at the Pratt Institute. During his years in New York, he joined the Umbra Workshop, and was one of the youngest members. The Umbria Workshop drew young writers to the Lower East Side of New York City in search of their artistic voices. It served as a crucible for emerging black poets, among them Ishmael Reed, David Henderson and Calvin C. Hernton. The workshop was one of the currents that fed the Black Arts Movement of the '60s and '70s, the first major African-American artistic movement after the Harlem Renaissance.[5]

Naval Service[edit]

From 1968-1972 Thomas served in the U.S. Navy attaining the rate of 2nd Class Petty Office (E-5) Radioman. He served in Vietnam (in-country); attended Navy schools for electronics, radio, and Vietnamese language; had experience as a platoon leader, radio and computer operator, master-at-arms, and supervisor of civilian employees. He was honorably discharged in 1972.


In 1973, Thomas moved to Houston as writer-in-residence at Texas Southern University. At Texas Southern, he helped edit the journal Roots. Beginning in 1984 and for more than two decades as a professor of English at the University of Houston–Downtown. From 1973 to 1979 he served as Writer in Residence at Texas Southern University, Florida A & M University; the State of Arkansas; and the state of Oklahoma.

Thomas also made important contributions to the study of African-American literature.[6]

In 2000, he published Extraordinary Measures: Afrocentric Modernism and 20th-Century American Poetry, his overview of the work of James Fenton and Amiri Baraka, among others.[1]


Thomas died in July 2005 at Texas Medical Center Hospice from emphysema.

Works and publications[edit]

Early Prizes[edit]

  • 1963 - Dwight L. Durling Prize in Poetry, John Golden Award for Creative Writing
  • 1966 - Poets Foundation Award
  • 1973 - Committee on Poetry grant
  • 1974 - Poets Foundation Award
  • 1974 - Lucille Medwick Award
  • 2000 - Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award


  1. ^ a b Lanham, Fritz (5 July 2005). "Deaths: Lorenzo Thomas, professor and poet". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Editorials: Lorenzo Thomas: Houston loses an important resident writer". Houston Chronicle. 6 July 2005. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Gery, John (Winter 2006). "In Memoriam: Lorenzo Thomas (1944-2005)". Callaloo. 29 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1353/cal.2006.0053. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Rowell, Charles H. (February 1981). "Between the Comedy of Matters and the Ritual Workings of Man: An Interview with Lorenzo Thomas". Callaloo (11/13): 19. doi:10.2307/3043810. JSTOR 3043810. 
  5. ^ "Furious Flower: African American Poetry, 1960-1995. A Facilitator's Guide: Lorenzo Thomas". California Newsreel. 1998. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "Talking to Lorenzo Thomas (Virtually)". The New Journal. 2001. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]