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Erma L. Clanton

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Information about Erma L. Clanton

Profile image of Erma L. Clanton

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
High School English Teacher
Theater Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Teal, Purple
Favorite Food:
Chicken, Peach Cobbler
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New York, New York
Favorite Quote:
To Thine Own Self Be True.

Birthplace

Born:
2/5/1923
Birth Location:
Memphis, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
High School English Teacher
Theater Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Teal, Purple
Favorite Food:
Chicken, Peach Cobbler
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New York, New York
Favorite Quote:
To Thine Own Self Be True.

Birthplace

Born:
2/5/1923
Birth Location:
Memphis
See how Erma L. Clanton is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Playwright, lyricist and teacher Erma Clanton was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 5, 1923, the fourth of eight children. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Clanton went to Alabama State University in Montgomery, where she earned a B.S. in 1945. She would later go on to earn a master's of theater and communication from the University of Memphis in 1969 and a doctor of humane letters from the Tennessee School of Religion in 2001.

After completing her bachelor's degree, Clanton went to work teaching English and speech at Melrose High School in Memphis, where she remained until 1969. During that time, she was actively involved in several productions performed by her students. In 1970, Clanton became an associate professor at the University of Memphis, where she taught theater and communications. Also during this time, Clanton began creating her own work, with her first piece, Roots, Rhymes & Righteous Times (An Evening of Soul) performed at the University of Memphis in 1971 and continuing under her direction until 1991. She went on to create and direct many more shows over the years, including Listen Children, God's Trombones, Black Pearls of the World, and Gifted & Black - On the Right Track. Along with her creation and direction of the shows, Clanton also writes original music. Clanton retired from the University of Memphis in 1991, yet continued to direct her new shows both in Memphis and elsewhere. In 1997 and 1998, she worked with gifted at-risk students at Hamilton High School, and then in 1999 Clanton taught one semester at Le Moyne Owen College.

In addition to her creative exploits, Clanton is active in a number of organizations, including serving as the chairperson of the Evening of Soul Foundation, a board member of Stax/Soulsville USA at the Museum of American Soul Music, and is a twenty-five-year member of the NAACP. She has received the Dr. Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award from the University of Memphis and the Bronze Jubilee Award from PBS Radio & TV.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Erma L. Clanton's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her paternal family roots and her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton describes her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton describes her mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Erma L. Clanton recalls lessons her parents taught her as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Erma L. Clanton describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her experience attending LaRose Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her mentors at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton recalls winning a scholarship to Alabama State University at an oratorical contest
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton remembers attending Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama during World War II
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton explains how a college event influenced her musical tastes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her interest in theater
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the history of oratory in African American communities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Erma L. Clanton talks about theater and her extracurricular activities at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Erma L. Clanton talks about teaching at Melrose High School in the Orange Mound neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton talks about studying theater at Columbia University in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton talks about attending a Broadway performance of 'Tea and Sympathy' in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton recalls meeting George Washington Carver and attending a performance by Paul Robeson at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton talks about teaching English and speech at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton talks about African American vernacular English and the oratorical traditions in black churches
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton talks about completing her master's degree and being hired by University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her motivations for 'An Evening of Soul'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the development of her production 'An Evening of Soul'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the musical influences for 'An Evening of Soul'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton describes the songs in 'An Evening of Soul,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton describes the songs in 'An Evening of Soul,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the thirtieth-anniversary performance of 'An Evening of Soul'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton describes an Easter pageant she produces for her church
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about theater productions at her church [New Sardis Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Erma L. Clanton talks about HistoryMaker Isaac Hayes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Erma L. Clanton describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton considers those she influenced
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton reflects upon what she would have done differently
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton narrates her photographs