Sonia Sanchez

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Sonia Sanchez is an African American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. Born Wilsonia Benita Driver in Birmingham, Alabama on September 9, 1934, she has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books.


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Writing and Activism
  • 3 Bibliography
  • 4 External links


When Sanchez was only a year old, her mother died and Sanchez was sent to live with her paternal grandmother. In 1943, she moved to Harlem to live with her father, her sister, and her stepmother who was her father's third wife. In 1955, she received a B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, where she had also taken several creative writing courses. Later, Sanchez completed postgraduate work at New York University where she studied poetry with Louise Bogan. Sanchez married poet Etheridge Knight and she had three children with him. They later divorced. 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.

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 1990s.

The author is a member of the Plowshares, the Brandywine Peace Community and MADRE. She also supports MOMS in Alabama and the National Black United Front.

Writing and Activism

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 across.

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.



  • Homecoming (1968)
  • We a Baddddd People (1970)
  • Love Poems (1973)
  • A Blues Book for a Blue Black Magic Woman (1974)
  • Autumn Blues
  • Continuous Fire: A Collection of Poetry
  • Shake Down Memory: A Collection of Political Essays and Speeches
  • It's a New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs (1971)
  • Homegirls and Handgrenades(1985)
  • Under a Soprano Sky (1987)
  • I've Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems(1995)
  • Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995)
  • Does Your House have Lions (1998)
  • Like the Singing Coming Off of Drums (1999)
  • Shake Loose My Skin (2000)
  • Ash(2001)
  • Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (2001)


  • Black Cats and Uneasy Landings
  • I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't (1982)
  • The Bronx is Next (1970)
  • Sista Son/Ji (1972)
  • Uh Huh, But How Do It Free Us? (1975)
  • Malcolm Man/Don't Live Here No More (1979)

Children's Books

  • It's a New Day
  • A Sound Investment


  • We Be Word Sorcerers
  • 360 Degrees of Blackness Coming at Ya!
  • Sonia Sanchez Biography at Voices from the Gap
  • Approaches to Teaching Sonia Sanchez's Poetry
  • An Evening with Sonia Sanchez
  • Painted Voices: Sonia Sanchez Biography
  • Women of Color Women of Word
  • Sonia Sanchez Biography at Speak Out
  • Sonia Sanchez Article at the Heath Anthology of American Literature
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