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John Oliver Killens

John Oliver Killens (January 14, 1916 – October 27, 1987) was an African-American novelist, essayist, and playwright. He was born in Macon, Georgia, and grew up in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Killens played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and was an influential figure in African-American literature.

Killens’ writing often explored themes of racial injustice, social activism, and the African-American experience. His first novel, “Youngblood” (1954), gained critical acclaim for its vivid portrayal of the lives of African-American soldiers during World War II. The book established Killens as a prominent voice in African-American literature.

James Baldwin, Louis Lomax, and John Killens participating in a panel discussion on the “Today” show

In addition to his writing, Killens was deeply involved in activism. He was a founding member of the Harlem Writers Guild, an organization that provided a supportive community for African-American writers. The guild aimed to address the underrepresentation of African-American voices in literature and promote social change. Killens went on to write several other notable works, including “And Then We Heard the Thunder” (1962) and “Sippi” (1977). His writing often tackled issues of racism, inequality, and the struggles faced by African-Americans in the United States.

Apart from his literary achievements, Killens also taught creative writing at several universities, including Columbia University and Howard University. He mentored numerous aspiring African-American writers and played an instrumental role in nurturing the next generation of voices in literature.

John Oliver Killens passed away on October 27, 1987, leaving behind a powerful literary legacy that continues to inspire and provoke thought on issues of race and social justice. His works remain an important part of the African-American literary canon.

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