David Bradley Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

David Bradley is most noted for his novel The Chaneysville Incident, published when he was only thirty-one and hailed by some as the best novel written by an African American in the 1980’s.

Bradley grew up in Pennsylvania and was educated at the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., summa cum laude, 1972) and the University of London (M.A., 1974). After receiving his graduate degree Bradley accepted a position as an assistant editor for J. B. Lippincott Company. Meanwhile, he submitted to Viking Publishers a novel he wrote while in college, and in 1975 South Street was published. This work was inspired by Bradley’s acquaintanceship with black working-class folks who frequented a neighborhood bar he liked on Philadelphia’s South Street. The novel follows the fortunes of a newcomer to South Street, in the process chronicling the interwoven lives that make up its ghetto community. Bradley intended it, in part, as a response to what he saw as unfounded optimism among his college-age peers about the increase of power for African Americans. South Street was a critical success despite its short span in print. After its publication he was offered a faculty position at Temple University in Philadelphia, a position he held for the following two decades.

Bradley’s second novel, The Chaneysville Incident, led critics to laud him one as of the finest African American novelists of his generation. This story of a black man’s quest to uncover the...

(The entire section is 612 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brigham, Cathy. “Identity, Masculinity, and Desire in David Bradley’s Fiction.” Contemporary Literature 36, no. 2 (Summer, 1995): 289-317. A study of how South Street and The Chaneysville Incident illuminate the cultural construction of masculinity and how that construction is complicated by both class and race.

Egan, Philip J. “Unraveling Misogyny and Forging the New Self: Mother, Lover, and Storyteller in The Chaneysville Incident.” Papers on Language and Literature 33, no. 3 (Summer, 1997): 265-287. Egan illustrates that John Washington’s quest to discover the mystery of his father’s life becomes, with Judith’s help, a journey to confront and overcome his own misogyny.

Rushdy, Ashraf. “The Stillness That Comes to All.” In Remembering Generations: Race and Family in Contemporary African American Fiction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Chapter 3 of Rushdy’s book focuses on the ways in which death and representations of burial become primary subjects of The Chaneysville Incident. Rushdy demonstrates the importance of Bradley’s contrast of Western and African notions of death in his exploration of how the past affects the present.

Smith, Valerie. “David Bradley.” In Afro-American Fiction Writers After 1955. Vol. 3 of Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984. This article is one of the most accessible and complete overviews of Bradley’s career as an author of fiction. It includes much biographical information as well as introductory descriptions of his novels.