|Birth: ||Feb. 4, 1900|
|Death: ||Aug. 28, 1966|
Poet, Educator, Columnist, Politician. Melvin Tolson graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City. He attended college at Fisk University, but, after his first year, for financial reasons, transferred to Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1924. After graduation, he taught at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, from 1924 to 1947, taking a leave of absence from 1930 to 1931 to work on his master's degree at Columbia University, which he was awarded in 1940. While at Wiley College, he taught Speech and English and formed the Wiley Forensic Society, a debate club. Additionally, he co-founded the black intercollegiate Southern Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts, directed the theater club and coached the junior varsity football team. The Wiley Forensic Society participated in many debates and desegregated the then existing debate forums in 1935. In 1947, he began a 17 year teaching position with Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. where he was a dramatist and director of the Dust Bowl Theater at the university. Tolson entered local politics while in Langston, and served three terms as Mayor from 1954 to 1960. He mentored a number of persons who became civil rights activists. In 1930, Tolson started writing poetry. "Dark Symphony" was published in 1941 in "Atlantic Monthly". This work compared and contrasted African-American and European-American history. In 1944, he published his first poetry collection called "Rendezvous with America" which included "Dark Symphony". In 1947, Liberia appointed him as their poet laureate. After leaving his teaching position at Wiley College, Tolson wrote a weekly column in "the Washington Tribune". In 1953, "Libretto for the Republic of Liberia" was published in honor of that country's centennial . In 1954, he was appointed a permanent fellow in poetry and drama at the "Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. In 1964, Tolson was elected to the New York Herald Tribune book-review board, and the District of Columbia presented him with a citation and Award for Cultural Achievement in the Fine Arts. Additionally he received a grant from the National Institute. His final work to appear while he was alive was titled "Harlem Gallery" and was published in 1965. In 1966, he was the recipient of the annual poetry award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1970, Langston University founded the Melvin B. Tolson Black Heritage Center in his honor, housing a collection of materials of Africans and African Americans. Posthumously in 1979, a collection of the poetry he wrote during his year in New York, was published under the title of "A Gallery of Harlem Portraits". In 2004, he was inducted posthumously into Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame. The Library of Congress houses Tolson's papers. (bio by: H M G)
Ruth Southall Tolson (1896 - 1982)*
Arthur L. Tolson (____ - 2015)*
Summit View Cemetery
Plot: Section 1, Block 41, Lot 55, Space SE.
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Precious 💕 Memor...
Record added: Oct 25, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 22444454
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