Naomi Long Madgett Biography

Naomi Long Madgett (born July 5, 1923) is an African-American poet, born Naomi Cornelia Long in Norfolk, Virginia. Madgett was a teacher and an award-winning poet, and she is also the senior editor of Lotus Press, a publisher of poetry books by black poets.

Madgett was the daughter of a Baptist minister, and spent her childhood in East Orange, New Jersey. She began writing at an early age. While living in New Jersey, she went to an integrated school, where she faced racism.

In 1937, her family moved to St. Louis, where Madgett was encouraged to write while attending high school. She read a wide range of content, from both white and black writers, from Aesop's fables and Robert T. Kerlin's anthology Negro Poets and Their Poems to Romantic and Victorian English poets such as John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Alfred Tennyson.

At the age of 17 Naomi published her first book of poetry, Songs to a Phantom Nightingale, a few days after graduating from high school.

She attended Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), and graduated in 1945 with a bachelor of arts degree.

Madgett married and moved to Detroit, where she worked for the Michigan Chronicle and gave birth to a daughter, Jill, in 1947. While living in Detroit, Madgett became a teacher in the Detroit public school system. Her poem "Midway," from her collection One and the Many, attracted wide attention as it portrayed black people's struggles, and victories, in a time when racism was prevalent in the United States. In 1955, she graduated from Wayne State University with a M.Ed.

In the 1960s, Madgett taught the first black literary course in the Detroit public school system. In 1968, she became a teacher in creative writing and black literature at Eastern Michigan University, where she taught until her retirement in 1984.

Some of Madgett's poems have been set up as songs and publicly performed.