Roark Bradford was a White fiction writer. He was born in Lauderdale County, TN in 1896 and lived on his family’s cotton plantation in the Nankipoo-Knob Creek area. He went on to write several fictional stories of African-Americans. He was greatly influenced by the African-Americans who worked on his family’s plantation and the African-Americans he attended church with. Their stories became his stories and he used these stories to create his writings. It is thought that some of his writings were just re-tellings of Bible stories using the dialect of African-Americans at the time. He is said to have had a great interest in African-American dialect and culture.
So why is Bradford being mentioned on my blog? I stumbled across his name in some notes I had taken awhile back. I had written in my notes
“Roark Bradford, Lauderdale County Author on Black Experiences”.
When I googled him this morning I have to admit I was less than thrilled. I have not yet done a thorough analysis of his writings, so I won’t go there now, but I can see how his writings would have been popular during the era in which they were written. I discovered a newspaper article that was written about Bradford with his participation. The article titled “Writer of Negro Stories Threw His Calendar Away. Roark Bradford, Author of The Green Pastures, Won’t Be Slave to Time” was published in the Milwaukee Journal November 4, 1941. What I found most interesting about the article were the portions of the article were African-Americans were mentioned.
I wonder if his “Negro playmates” Algy, Ed, and Sweet and Old Uncle Wes, who worked on his father’s plantation, know that they might have inspired some of his stories. I would be interested in learning more about his father’s plantation and the African-Americans who worked there. Who were these individuals that inspired Bradford’s stories? What were their lives like? What became of his playmates Algy, Ed, and Sweet? What church did he attend as a child that was integrated?
I look forward to discovering the answers to my questions on the life of Roark Bradford.
Source: The Milwaukee Journal. Tuesday, November 4, 1941. Article written by Austin Doyle (AP)