Born Toni Cade in New York City in 1939 to Helen Brent Henderson Cade, the author would legally add Bambara to her surname in 1970. She claims to have stumbled across the word in her grandmother’s sketch pad, and it is the name by which she is recognized as an influential African American writer of the latter twentieth century. Bambara’s mother, Helen, attracted to the artistic wellspring of the Harlem Renaissance of her day, encouraged her daughter to partake of the cultural resources available in New York City during the 1940’s and 1950’s, including museums, galleries, and performance spaces.
Following this enriching childhood, Bambara attended Queens College, majoring in theater and English and earning her bachelor of arts degree in 1959. Employment as a social worker followed, and she wrote fiction in her spare time, publishing her first piece at the age of twenty. Bambara left for Europe in 1961 to continue her arts training; in Paris, she practiced mime at the Ecole de Mime Etienne Decroux and studied commedia dell’arte at the University of Florence in Italy. Returning to New York, Bambara earned her M.A. from City College in 1964, where she first taught courses in English. By 1969, she was an assistant professor at Rutgers University. In addition to her classroom activities, Bambara continued to write and to serve her community through various arts outreach programs.
In 1970, Bambara began her work as an editor of ethnic anthologies. The Black Woman: An Anthology contained works by established writers such as Toni...
(The entire section is 641 words.)