Black History Month Spotlight: Lucille Sayles Clifton

By Cara Bas

Born in 1936 in Depew, NY, near Buffalo, Lucille Sayles Clifton was a poet, author, and educator.

Her poetry style was casual and unpretentious, yet painted vivid portraits of the human experience.

Race, family relations, the body and the spirit are recurring themes in Clifton’s poetry.

She also wrote over two dozen children’s books that detail life’s lessons and adventures from the young characters’ perspectives.

After completing high school and college in the Buffalo area, Clifton married Professor Fred Clifton. The couple moved to Washington D.C., where Lucille worked as a literature assistant at the Office of Education.

Her poetry was quickly gaining exposure and acclaim. Her first poetry collection, Good Times, was published in 1969, and made the New York Times list of the year’s ten best books.

Clifton was also a very successful children’s books author. In 1970, Some of the Days of Everett Anderson, a children’s poetry book, was published.

It would become the first in a series of Everett Anderson story books. Topics in the series included intense situations and problems, including death, child abuse, and single parents.

The series, as well as her other books also captured a child’s imagination, detailed adventures, and celebrated holidays. Clifton’s story, Three Wishes, features a young girl evaluating friendship and superstition. It was featured in the mid-1970s TV special, “Free To Be You and Me.”

Clifton continued to write and teach until the early 21st century.

After a long battle with cancer, she died in February 2010, but her honored works continue to inspire.

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