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Angela Jackson

(b. 1951)


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(b. 1951), poet, dramatist, and fiction writer.

Angela Jackson was born in Greenville, Mississippi. Her family moved to Chicago, Illinois, while she was a child. The impact of the two locations is evident in her poetry, which evinces southern and midwestern language influences. While at Northwestern University, Jackson emerged as a poet during the Black Arts movement. One of the talented participants in the writer's workshop of Chicago's Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), Jackson produces work reflective of the Black Arts movement and OBAC's aesthetic thrust. OBAC was one of the many organizations that successfully promoted art for an African American audience that was representational and functional in form and was a major influence on Jackson's style and philosophy. She entered the writer's workshop in 1970 and participated with founding members Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), Carolyn M. Rodgers, and Johari Amini (Jewel Lattimore). In 1976 she succeeded Hoyt Fuller as coordinator. The organization's and the artists' objectives were production of high-quality literature reflecting the black experience, definition of standards by which such literature was to be judged, and development of black critics qualified to evaluate black literature accordingly while conscious of the dynamics of Western literary standards.

Jackson's creative style is distinctive yet representative of the OBAC school. Her work is not necessarily polemical but states the need for a strong African American community. Jackson has written on various aspects of the African American experience: northern and southern black life, African heritage, cultural connectivity and integration, and the wide-ranging experience of love. Voodoo/Love Magic (1974) is a collection of poems that explore family, love as a powerful force, and African American identity. She has written in African American vernacular in a creative and authentic manner, with an emphasis on rhythm and sound, particularly inflection, and metaphor to convey layered meaning. This style was honed in work that followed. The Greenville Club (1977), collected in Four Black Poets, presented multiple voiced perspectives of black urban community life. Solo in the Boxcar (1985) is composed of the voices of residents of an apartment building.

In the late 1970s and the 1980s Jackson turned to fiction, publishing the short stories “Dreamer” (1977) and “Witch Doctor” (1977) and a piece from a novel in progress, Treemont Stone (1984). In this period she adapted her poetry for the stage in Witness! (Chicago Showcase Theater, 1978), Shango Diaspora: An African-American Myth of Womanhood and Love (Chicago, Parkway Community House Theatre, 1980), and When the Wind Blows (Chicago, 1984).

Jackson is the recipient of many literary prizes and fellowships. Her work has taken her from Chicago, where her works were included in the Dial-a-Poem and Poetry-on-the-Buses campaigns and she participated in the Poets in the Schools program to Lagos, Nigeria, as an elected representative of the United States at the second World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977. In 1984 Jackson was appointed chair of the board of directors for the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and in 1985 she became a writer in residence at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Her most recent publications are Cowboy Amok (1992), Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners (1993), a full-length collection of poems that focus on the spider as a symbol of African American womanhood, and And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New (1998).

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Subjects: Literature.


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