Owen Vincent Dodson, the grandson of former slaves and the ninth child of Nathaniel and Sarah Dodson, was born on November 28, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a syndicated columnist and director of the National Negro Press. Before Owen’s thirteenth birthday, death claimed four siblings and both parents; as a result, Owen and the other Dodson children lived with their older sister Lillian, an elementary school teacher. Dodson graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1932, earned a B.A. from Bates College in 1936 and a M.F.A. degree from the Yale School of Fine Arts, School of Drama in 1939.
At Bates, Dodson’s passion for poetry and drama was evident. In response to his criticism of a sonnet by John Keats, his professor directed him to write sonnets himself, which Dodson did at the rate of four sonnets a week during his undergraduate years. This output enabled him to become a published poet while still an undergraduate. Also at Bates, he wrote and directed plays, and during his senior year, he staged The Trojan Women.
At Yale, two of Dodson’s best known plays, Divine Comedy and The Garden of Time, were first produced. Dodson, recognized as a promising poet, soon gained attention as an up and coming dramatist. Talladega College commissioned him to write a play Amistad, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the slave-ship mutiny led by Joseph Cinque.
After Dodson received his graduate degree from Yale, he began his career as an educator. He was employed by Spelman College and later at Hampton University. Dodson was one of the founders of...
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