MAY 23, 1869


Born in Sag Harbor, New York, to African American and Montauk parents, she grew up in Providence, RI, where she was raised by her aunt.  Olivia began writing in high school.  In 1899, she published Original Poems, extolling African American virtue and perseverance.  In 1914, she followed with Driftwood with elegies to figures important to African Americans.  In 1916, she moved to Chicago and founded the Bush-Banks School of Expression and, around 1920, wrote a play entitled Indian Trails: or Trail of the Montauk in reaction to the Montauk tribe being officially declared extinct in 1910.  Her play, reflected decreasing cultural unity among tribal members, but also had settlers returning the land at the end.  In the 1930s, in connection with the Harlem Renaissance, she was part of the Federal Theatre Project and an instructor at the Abyssinia Community Center.  Olivia died in New York City on April 8, 1944.

Source:  “Olivia Ward Bush-Banks Biography,” Encyclopedia of World Biography.  Retrieved 7/1/2019,
Photo:  Author unknown.  Date likely 1899.  Likely Public Domain in U.S.:  Likely Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 70 years or less.  Additionally, Fair use as only source for this photo is:  The author is unknown, and the subject is deceased since 1944.

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