My Contribution: I published poetry in Harrisburg newspapers, performed and served as an Honor Roll student while in the Harrisburg School System, and contributed to the Harlem Renaissance as a poet.
My Legacy: I was an important artist and poet of the Harlem Renaissance who was educated for a time in the Harrisburg School District. I read “To Usward,” a tribute to novelist Jesse Fauset, at the now famous Civic Club in New York, which launched the Harlem Renaissance. I started a support group for other artists and writers that included Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston. My poetry is still studied today. I kept a scrapbook from my days in Harrisburg, which is still on file at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.
In My Words:
“Oh, little brown girl, born for sorrow’s mate, / Keep all you have of queenliness, /
Forgetting that you once were slave, / And let your full lips laugh at Fate!”
— Excerpt from “To a Dark Girl” by Gwendolyn Bennett
Full Name: Gwendolyn Bennetta Bennett
Birth Date: July 8, 1902
Death Date: May 30, 1981
Place of Birth: Giddings, Texas
Places of Residence: 44 Balm Street, Harrisburg (father’s residence); 2 W. 120 St. New York; Manhattan; Nevada Indian Reservation; Washington, D.C.
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: I lived in Harrisburg during middle school and high school with my father.
Family Members: Father: J.R. Bennett. Mother: Mayme Bennett. Grandmother: Madelyn Shaner. Step-mother: Marechal Neil Bennett. Husband: M1: Albert Jackson. Husband: M2: Richard Crosscup.
Education: Lincoln School, 9th grade (Harrisburg, 1916); Central High School (Harrisburg, 1917); Brooklyn Girls High School (1918-1921); Columbia University and Pratt Institute (1924); Sorbonne in Paris (1925-1926).
Occupations: Poet. Artist. Writer. Editor. Director of Harlem Community Art Center. Professor at Howard University.
Church Membership: Performed at Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church.
Activism: I was a key agent in the Harlem Renaissance.
Connections: My father was the attorney Joshua Robbin Bennett. I knew Esther Popel, another Harlem Renaissance Poet, from my time on Balm Street.