The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Samuel Greenlee

Share on Social Media

Information about Samuel Greenlee

Profile image of Samuel Greenlee

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Fiction Writer
Poet

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere Warm
Favorite Quote:
When you sleep on the floor, you can't fall out of bed.

Birthplace

Born:
7/13/1930
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Fiction Writer
Poet

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere Warm
Favorite Quote:
When you sleep on the floor, you can't fall out of bed.

Birthplace

Born:
7/13/1930
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Samuel Greenlee is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Over the course of his career, Sam Greenlee has been a novelist, poet, screenwriter, journalist, teacher, and talk show host. Born in Chicago on July 13, 1930, he attended Chicago public schools. At age fifteen, Greenlee participated in his first sit-in and walked in his first picket line. His social activism continues to this day.

In 1952, Greenlee received his B.S. in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the following year he attended law school. Deciding against a law career, he transferred to the University of Chicago, studying international relations from 1954 to 1957. In 1957, he began a seven year career with United States Information Agency as a Foreign Services Officer, serving in Iraq, East Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece, and in 1958, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for bravery during the Baghdad revolution.

Greenlee's first and most well known novel, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, was published in 1968. This prize-winning novel quickly became an underground favorite for its fictionalization of an urban-based war for African American liberation. Greenlee co-wrote a screenplay adaptation of the novel, and in 1973 The Spook Who Sat by the Door was released on film. The film was an overnight success when it was released and was then unexpectedly taken out of distribution.

Greenlee has written numerous novels, stage plays, screenplays, poems. He recently moved back to Chicago after several years of voluntary exile in Spain and West Africa and is currently hosting a radio talk show program.

Sam Greenlee passed away on May 19, 2014.

See how Samuel Greenlee is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sam Greenlee interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee describes his father's history and traces ancestors to pre-Civil War days
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee describes his mother, Desoree Alexander, a successful jazz tap dancer
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee talks about his maternal grandfather John Charles Alexander
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee talks about how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee talks about his childhood exposure to music and musicians
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sam Greenlee describes his family's legacy of militancy
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sam Greenlee shares memories of his early home life in 1930s Chicago
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee discusses his family's working class status
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee remembers his brother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee recalls childhood aspirations and his friendship with Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee describes his childhood personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee talks about his studies and his longtime interest in writing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee reveals the incident that caused him to leave the U.S. Foreign Service
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee describes the sounds of his Chicago neighborhood in the 1930s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sam Greenlee explains why he quit law school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sam Greenlee describes his social network in his youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sam Greenlee reflects on the black history that is not taught
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Sam Greenlee recalls his undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee details his refusal to wear Confederate insignia in the Army's "Dixie Division"
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee recalls his graduate years at the University of Chicago
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee discusses his years in the U.S. Foreign Service
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee talks about serving with USIS in Iraq, East Pakistan and Indonesia during coups and violence
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee describes himself as "a blues man"
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee explains his foreign service work as cultural officer with the U.S.I.S.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee shares lessons from his foreign service in Muslim countries
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee discusses his resignation from his "fast track" Foreign Service career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee discusses black radical groups, revolution and the inspiration for 'Spook'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee compares "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" with other African American literature
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee urges the need for African Americans to return to developing their own institutions
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee analyzes the failures of integrationism
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee contrasts success abroad and suppression at home for 'Spook'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee discusses the publication of 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee discusses publicity and reaction to 'The Spook Who Sat By the Door'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee recalls making the film version of 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Samuel Greenlee discusses his writing style in 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Samuel Greenlee recalls ambivalent response of some blacks to his film 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee discusses tokenism
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee recalls initial success, then FBI suppression of his film "The Spook Who Sat By the Door"
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Samuel Greenlee discusses his participation in the college lecture circuit in the 1970s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Samuel Greenlee recalls persecution after "Spook" and his life in the 1980s-2001
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Samuel Greenlee details his years spent abroad
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Samuel Greenlee discusses his two marriages
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Samuel Greenlee discusses changes in his personality and recent health issues
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Samuel Greenlee considers his literary influences
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Samuel Greenlee considers the spectrum of black political thought
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Samuel Greenlee reflects on hip hop culture
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Samuel Greenlee shares his plans for the future
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Samuel Greenlee evaluates his citizenship
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee talks about how black history has been obscured
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee reflects on a new generation of black artists
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee considers his family's reactions to his success
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee considers his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee reflects on how art has kept black people sane