Sonia Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama on September
Sanchez was only a year old, when her mother died and she was sent
to live with her grandmother. She lived with family and friends
until she moved to Harlem in 1943 to live with her father, her
sister, and her stepmother. She received a B.A. in Political
Science from Hunter College in 1955, where she had also taken
several creative writing courses. Sanchez completed postgraduate
work at New York University where she studied poetry with Louise
Bogan. 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 ten
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. Sanchez has also appeared on Bill Cosby's CBS show in the
Sanchez is a member of the Plowshares, the Brandywine Peace
Community and MADRE. She also supports MOMS 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
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.
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