Reed, Ishmael Scott

Reed, Ishmael Scott, 1938- , African-American novelist, poet, and social critic, b. Chattanooga, Tn. When he was a child, Reed’s family moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where he attended the Univ. of Buffalo, but had to withdraw in his junior year due to lack of funds. (The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1995). He moved to New York City in 1962, where he cofounded the counterculture newspaper, The East Village Other, and joined a collective of young black writers called the Umbra Workshop. While living in New York City, he was a leader in the movement to promote black artists’ works, as well as connecting with other poets and progressive jazz musicians, including Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler. In 1970, he joined the faculty of the Univ. of California, Berkeley, teaching there for 35 years. He has authored 12 novels, seven collections of poetry, 11 collections of essays, two books of travel essays, and nine plays, as well as editing 14 anthologies. His poetry collection, Conjure (1972), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and his novel, Mumbo Jumbo (1972), also was nominated for a National Book Award, all in 1973. In 1998, he was awarded a “genius” grant by the MacArthur Foundation. He has also won numerous other honorary degrees and awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. In 1976, he was a founder of the nonprofit Before Columbus Foundation, which promotes multiracial literature.

See his novel The Freelance Pallbearers (1967); collected poems (2007, 2021); collected plays (2004), The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda (2019); anthologies edited by (1970, 2003); interviews with (1995; B. Dick and A. Singh, eds.); studies by R. Martin (1988), P. McGee (1997), J. Ebbeson (2006), F. Sirmans, ed. (2008), S. Ludwig, ed. (2012).

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