- Feb 28, 2009
Henry Dumas was born on July [20 or] 29,1934, in Sweet Home, Arkansas....migration at the age of ten to Harlem, to the north where he attended New York public schools He join the U.S. Air Force in 1953 and was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; he also spent a year stationed on the Arabian Peninsula. While in the Air Force, Dumas won creative-writing awards for his contributions to Air Force periodicals.
In 1955, he married Loretta Ponton. The couple had two children, David and Michael. After returning from his tour with the Air Force in 1957, Dumas attended City College and Rutgers University. Known for his work as a publicist and teacher, Dumas helped to develop the "little magazine" circuit. In the early 1960s, Dumas transported food and clothing to protesters in Tennessee and Mississippi. Dumas remained active in the civil rights and Black Power movements for the remainder of his life.
In 1967, he taught at Hiram College in Ohio in the Upward Bound Program (where he served on the staff of the Hiram Poetry Review).
Later that year (1967) Dumas became the director of language workshops at Southern Illinois University's Experiment in Higher Education Program (at the time of his death, was teacher-counselor and director of language workshops).
In April of 1968, at the age of thirty-three, Dumas was shot and killed by a New York Transit Authority Policeman at 125th Street Station in a case of "mistaken identity." At the time of his death, he had already finished several manuscripts of poetry and short stories.
In 1970 SIU press published limited editions of Dumas' posthumously collected poetry and prose. And since the time of his death, his writings have appeared in numerous anthologies, some of which are Black Out Loud, Open Poetry, The Poetry of Black America, Understanding the New Black Poetry, Words Among America and Brothers and Sisters.
The vulnerability of black children amid the Southern white lynch-mob mentality, a young sharecropper encountering a civil-rights worker, and whites experiencing the mystical force of black music are among the subjects Dumas examined in his short stories, many of which were collected in Ark of Bones (1970) and Rope of Wind (1979). Nature, revolutionary politics, and music are especially frequent subjects of his poetry, which is noted for its faithfulness to the language and cadence of African-American speech....
*"The more things change, the more they stay the same."*