Carolyn Marie Rodgers was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 14, 1940, to Clarence Rodgers and Bazella Rodgers. She was the youngest of four children, three girls and one boy. While she was young, Rodgers’s parents encouraged her to pursue music, and she played the guitar and composed throughout her life. She kept a journal during her youth and experimented with poetry during adolescence, but she began writing poems in earnest during her freshman year of college at the University of Illinois in 1960. The following year, she transferred to Roosevelt University, where she later earned a B.A. degree.
While working as a social worker at the Young Men’s Christian Association, she met Hoyt Fuller, the founder of the Chicago Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), and began attending the organization’s writers’ workshops. Around the same time, she began attending the Gwendolyn Brooks’s Writers’ Workshop. These workshops, the mentorship of Fuller and Brooks, and the support of fellow participants, such as Madhubuti, Amini, Cecil Brown, and Sterling Plumpp, helped Rodgers hone her craft and garner the courage to publish her work. In the late 1960’s, Rodgers, along with Madhubuti and Amini, founded Third World Press, the company that published her first two books, Paper Soul and Songs of a Blackbird. Both books received critical attention, and honors and awards soon followed. Rodgers was the first recipient of the Conrad...
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