Ann Petry Biography

Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Ann Lane Petry was born to Peter Clarke Lane and Bertha James Lane on October 12, 1908, joining a family that had lived for several generations as the only black citizens of Old Saybook, Connecticut. The descendant of a runaway Virginian slave, Petry never felt herself to be a true New Englander; her cultural legacy was not that of the typical Yankee, and as a small child she came to know the effects of racism upon being stoned by white children on her first day of school.

Nevertheless, her family distinguished itself within the community and boasted numerous professionals: Her grandfather became a licensed chemist, her father, aunt, and uncle became pharmacists, and her mother became a chiropodist. Inspired by the examples of independent women relatives, Ann pursued a degree in pharmacology from the University of Connecticut and graduated as the only black student in the class of 1931. She worked in family-owned pharmacies until 1938, when she married George D. Petry and moved to New York City.

There, Petry began her writing career and quickly secured jobs with various newspapers. Participation in a creative writing seminar at Columbia University greatly influenced her during this period. Her first published short story, “On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon,” appeared in a 1943 issue of The Crisis and led to Petry’s receipt of the 1945 Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship. With that financial support, she completed The...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Petry analyzes the American scene from a variety of angles, always exposing the debilitating impact of its hierarchical social systems and capitalistic materialism. Like her contemporaries, she recorded the daunting obstacles to human fulfillment facing those on the margins of American prosperity, and yet hers is finally a Christian existentialist vision celebrating the individual’s potential for spiritual liberation through which an entire culture might relinquish its crippling prejudices. Her examination of gender as another locus of oppression laid important groundwork for the writings of African American women since the 1960’s.

Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Ann Lane Petry was born to Peter Clarke Lane and Bertha James Lane on October 12, 1908, joining a family that had lived for several generations as the only African American citizens of the resort community of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The descendant of a runaway Virginian slave, Petry admitted to never having felt herself to be a true New Englander; her cultural legacy was not that of the typical Yankee, and as a small child she came to know the isolating effects of racism after being stoned by white children on her first day of school. Nevertheless, her family distinguished itself within the community and boasted numerous professionals: Her grandfather was a licensed chemist; her father, aunt, and uncle became pharmacists; and her mother worked as a chiropodist. In 1902 Peter Lane opened a pharmacy in Old Saybrook, for which Ann herself trained. Inspired by the example of her many independent female relatives—women who had, she explained, “abandoned the role of housewife in the early twentieth century”—in 1931 Ann secured a degree in pharmacology from the University of Connecticut, the only black graduate in her class. She worked in family-owned pharmacies until 1938, when she met and married Louisiana-born George D. Petry and moved with him to his home in Harlem.

Petry had begun writing fiction seriously in high school after an antagonistic teacher grudgingly praised her work as having real potential, and she wrote steadily thereafter (although to no immediate success). With the move to New York City, her writing career began in earnest. She quickly secured jobs with various Harlem newspapers as a reporter, editor, and copywriter, working for the Amsterdam News and The People’s Voice (the latter a weekly begun by African American clergyman and politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.). She also briefly acted in the American Negro Theatre and worked on a study conducted by the New York Foundation investigating the effects of segregation on black children.

Participation in a creative writing seminar at Columbia University greatly influenced Petry during this time. Her first published short story, “On Saturday the...

(The entire section is 884 words.)

Biography

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Ann Lane Petry was born in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, to one of the town’s two African American families. Her father owned the village drugstore. A 1931 graduate of the University of Connecticut College of Pharmacy, for a time Petry operated the pharmacy in Old Lyme, one of two family-owned pharmacies. Petry grew up listening to stories of the African American experience told by family, visiting friends, and relatives.

In 1938 Ann Lane was married to George Petry; they moved to New York City. Petry left the pharmacy to follow a family tradition of storytelling. She worked for two Harlem newspapers, the Amsterdam News and People’s Voice. Petry’s first published work, “Marie of the Cabin Club,”...

(The entire section is 339 words.)