Ahmos Zubolton, II


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(1935–2005), poet, editor, and journalist.

Born 21 October 1935 in Poplarville, Mississippi, and raised in De Ridder, Louisiana, Ahmos Zu-Bolton II was one of the most influential figures in the development of the “new Black poetry” in the South during the 1970s. His career exemplifies the Black Arts movement idea that African American artists should also be “cultural workers” responsive and responsible to their communities, affirming the belief—as Zu-Bolton expresses it in his 1976 poem “Struggle-Road Dance”—that “this place / must be a workshop” for Blacks. Zu-Bolton's role as poet is complemented by his work as a literary editor, small press publisher, teacher, and organizer of cultural events.

Zu-Bolton's free verse poems—collected in A Niggered Amen (1975)—employ African American vernacular speech and are sometimes cast in the form of dramatic monologues or modeled on the sermonic tradition. These works reflect the poet's many varied experiences, ranging from cutting sugarcane on Gulf Coast plantations to playing professional baseball for the Shreveport Twins of the American Negro Baseball League in the early 1950s. In 1965 he received a scholarship to Louisiana State University but military service as a medic in Vietnam interrupted his college career, and he eventually graduated from California State Polytechnic University in 1971.

Working at Howard University's Humanities Resource Center between 1973 and 1976 brought him into contact with Stephen E. Henderson, E. Ethelbert Miller, and other writers who encouraged him to publish the literary magazine HooDoo. From 1977 to 1980 he also organized a series of HooDoo Festivals which presented poets and musicians in New Orleans, Galveston, Austin, Houston, and other cities. With Alan Austin and Etheridge Knight, he coedited Blackbox, an innovative poetry magazine issued as taperecorded cassettes. Throughout the same period Zu-Bolton was also one of the leading figures in the Southern Black Cultural Alliance (SBCA)—a network of writers, musicians, literary journals, and theater groups that promoted the ideas of the Black Arts movement.

For ten years (1982–1992) Zu-Bolton's Copasetic Bookstore and Gallery in New Orleans was one of that city's most active venues for literary events, presenting plays, poetry readings, children's programs, and workshops for young writers. While teaching at Tulane University and Xavier University for various periods, Zu-Bolton was also a journalist contributing articles to the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Louisiana Weekly. His poems are included in anthologies such as Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth (1988), edited by Dorothy Abbott, and Black Southern Voices (1992), edited by John O. Killens and Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Lorenzo Thomas, “Ahmos Zu-Bolton II,” in DLB, vol. 41, Afro-American Poets since 1955, eds. Trudier Harris and Thadious M. Davis, 1985, pp. 360–364. “Ahmos Zu-Bolton II,” in Mississippi Writers, vol. 3, ed. Dorothy Abbott, 1988, p. 423.

Lorenzo Thomas

Subjects: Literature.

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