Reed, Ishmael, 1938-....

Variant names

Hide Profile

Writer Ishmael Reed was born on February 22, 1938 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Thelma Virginia Coleman, a homemaker and salesclerk, and Henry Lenoir, a fundraiser for the YMCA. In 1942, he moved to Buffalo, New York with his mother and stepfather, Bennie Stephen Reed, an autoworker. Reed graduated from East High School in 1956, enrolled in night classes at Millard Fillmore College, and later transferred to SUNY Buffalo.

In 1961, Reed began writing forEmpire State Weekly, during which time he interviewed Malcolm X for a community radio program. Reed then moved to New York City in 1962, where he joined the Umbra poets. In 1967, Reed began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley and published his first novel,The Free Lance Pallbearers. In 1969, Reed accepted a teaching position at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he taught for three years. Reed's popularity soared in the 1970s with the publishing of several other books, including his novelsMumbo JumboandFlight to Canada. In addition to the popularity of his own work, Reed championed the work of other writers, operating various small presses and literary journals, including Yardbird, which he co-founded with poet Al Young in 1971, and Reed, Cannon & Johnson Publishing Company, which he co-founded in 1972. In 1976, he also co-founded the Before Columbus Foundation, which promoted contemporary American multicultural literature. Reed became a professor at Yale University and SUNY Buffalo in 1979. From 1983 until 1987, Reed was a professor at Columbia University before accepting a teaching position at Harvard University in 1987. Also, Reed authored over thirty published books, includingThe Complete Muhammad Ali,Juice!,Airing Dirty Laundry,A Secretary to the Spirits, andcatechism of d neoamerican hoodoo church.

Reed has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including a 1998 MacArthur Genius Grant, The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Award for fiction, a National Endowment fellowship for creative writing, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for best noncommercial novel of 1974. Reed has also been nominated for a Pulitzer and two National Book Awards.

Reed and his wife, Carla Blank, live in Oakland, California. They have one daughter, Tennessee Reed. Reed has one other daughter, Timothy Bret Reed, from a previous marriage.

Ishmael Reed was interviewed byThe HistoryMakerson December 13, 2015.

From The HistoryMakers™ biography:

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976. Papers, 1966-1967. Washington University in St. Louis, .
referencedIn Gore Vidal papers, 1850-2020 (inclusive), 1936-2008 (bulk) Houghton Library
creatorOf Joans, Ted. Ted Joans papers, 1948-2002. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Helm, Michael. Mike Helm interviews from the City miner records [sound recording]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Sam Abrams papers RIT Library, Wallace Library
creatorOf Reed, Ishmael, 1938-. Savage wilds : typescript screenplay, ca. 1985. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Madgett, Naomi Cornelia Long. Naomi Long Madgett and Lotus Press papers. 1937-2004 (bulk 1970-2003). University of Michigan
referencedIn The Review of Contemporary Fiction/Dalkey Archive Press : records, 1980-1990 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Jordan, June, 1936-2002. Videotape collection of June Jordan, (inclusive), 1976-2002 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Reed, Ishmael. Office files of The American Poetry Review, 1975-1981. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Larry Neal papers, 1961-1985 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archives Section
referencedIn Adrienne Kennedy Papers TXRC94-A15., ca. 1954-1992 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Ken McCormick Collection of Doubleday and Company, Inc., Records, 1882-1992, (bulk 1910-1992) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Antioch Review mss., 1940-2007 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
creatorOf Alternative Press (Detroit, Michigan). The Alternative Press records, 1961-1998 (bulk 1970-1995). University of Michigan
referencedIn Reed and Baraka [sound recording] : sons by different fathers. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Kennedy, Adrienne. Papers, ca. 1954-1992. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Will Inman Papers, 1910-2009 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
creatorOf Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976,. New jazz poets collection, 1962-1970. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Harper, Michael S., 1938-. Office files : of The American Poetry Review, 1972-1983. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Neal, Larry, 1937-1981. Larry Neal papers, 1961-1985. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Bertolino, James, 1942-. Papers, 1968-1980. Ohio University, Alden Library
referencedIn Michele Wallace papers New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Anne Waldman Papers (1945-2012, bulk 1965-2000) University of Michigan
referencedIn James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Felver, Christopher, 1946-. Christopher Felver portraits of poets, authors, and artists [graphic] / photographed by Christopher Felver. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Joel Oppenheimer Papers, 1925-1988. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Woodberry Poetry Room (Harvard College Library) poetry readings, 1931- (ongoing). Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Kirsch, Robert. Robert Kirsch papers, 1979. The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf The HistoryMakers Video Oral History with Ishmael Reed The HistoryMakers
Relation Name
associatedWith Abrams, Sam, person
associatedWith Alternative Press (Detroit, Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Antioch review. corporateBody
associatedWith Bertolino, James, 1942- person
associatedWith Domini, John, 1951-. person
associatedWith Doubleday and Company, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Felver, Christopher, 1946- person
associatedWith Harper, Michael S., 1938- person
correspondedWith Inman, Will, 1923- person
associatedWith Joans, Ted. person
associatedWith John O'Brien person
associatedWith June Jordan, 1936-2002 person
associatedWith Kennedy, Adrienne, 1931- person
correspondedWith Kirsch, Robert. person
associatedWith Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976. person
associatedWith Madgett, Naomi Cornelia Long. person
associatedWith McCormick, Ken, 1906-1997 person
associatedWith Neal, Larry, 1937-1981. person
correspondedWith Oppenheimer, Joel person
associatedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Waldman, Anne, 1945-. person
associatedWith Wallace, Michele person
associatedWith Woodberry Poetry Room (Harvard College Library). corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Oakland (Calif.)
Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Berkeley (Calif.)
American literature
Fiction Writer


Birth 1938-02-22

Birth 19380222





Ark ID: w6fj2gkj

SNAC ID: 39098394