Given the name Miltona Mirkin Cade at birth, Toni Cade acquired the name Bambara in 1970 after she discovered it as part of a signature on a sketchbook she found in her great-grandmother’s trunk. Bambara spent her formative years in New York and Jersey City, New Jersey, attending public and private schools in the areas. Although she maintained that her early short stories are not autobiographical, the protagonists in many of these pieces are young women who recall Bambara’s inquisitiveness as a youngster.
Bambara attended Queens College, New York, and received a bachelor of arts degree in 1959. Earlier that year she had published her first short story, and she also received the John Golden award for fiction from Queens College. Bambara then entered the City College of New York, where she studied modern American fiction, but before completing her studies for the master’s degree, she traveled to Italy and studied in Milan, eventually returning to her studies and earning the master’s in 1963.
From 1959 to 1973, Bambara saw herself as an activist. She held positions as social worker, teacher, and counselor. In her various roles, Bambara saw herself as working for the betterment of the community. During the 1960’s, Rutgers State University developed a strong fine arts undergraduate program. Many talented black artists joined the faculty to practice their craft and to teach. Bambara was one of those talented faculty members. She taught,...
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