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African American Women Writers

Louise Meriwether (1923-). When Julia and Marion Lloyd Jenkins left South Carolina, they surely didn't expect to arrive in the North on the precipice of an economic depression. By the time Louise came along, they were living in Haverstraw, New York, where Julia was busy caring for a houseful of children while Marion worked as a bricklayer. When the Great Depression hit, there were five Jenkins children, and Marion had lost his job. To make ends meet, Marion worked as a “numbers runner” (small-time helper in an illegal gambling operation) and Julia collected welfare checks. In those days, the Jenkins family was not alone in their poverty—or in their various ways of trying to get by. After Louise graduated from Central Commercial High School (in downtown Manhattan), she went on to study English at New York University, where she earned her B.A. By the 1960s, Louise had married Angelo Meriwether and had moved with him to Los Angeles, where she worked as a freelance reporter for the Los Angeles Sentinel. Her book reviews, biographical sketches of local African-American heroes and of Arctic explorer Matthew Henson, and other writings started appearing in the Los Angeles Times and in the Sentinel. During the mid-1960s, Louise had become a dedicated social activist, fighting for better working conditions for African-American laborers; working with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) for civil rights; and collaborating with the Deacons, a self-defense coalition that maintained an all-day, all-night patrol to protect the African-American community from Ku Klux Klan attacks. In 1965, she earned an M.A. in journalism from the University of California at Los Angeles, and she got a job as the first African-American story analyst for Universal Studios. In 1967, William Styron's white male account of The Confessions of Nat Turner sparked fury among many African Americans, including Meriwether, who helped prevent the prize-winning book from being made into a movie. In the late 1960s, she joined the Watts Writers’ Workshop and started writing short stories (e.g., “Daddy Was a Number Runner,” 1967; “A Happening in Barbadoes,” 1968; and “The Thick End Is for Whipping,” Negro Digest, 1969).*

Genre: Coming-of-age stories; Literary fiction; Mainstream fiction

More about Louise Meriwether at ProQuest One Literature


* Louise Meriwether. In S. D. Hatch (Ed.), Encyclopedia of African-American writing: five centuries of contribution : trials & triumphs of writers, poets, publications and organizations (3rd ed.). Grey House Publishing. Credo Reference. 

By Louise Meriwether

About Louise Meriwether

Dictionary of Literary Biography