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Sterling Plumpp

Chicago poet Sterling Plumpp was born January 30, 1940, in Clinton, Mississippi. Educated in public and religious schools, he graduated from high school in 1960 and went on to attend Roosevelt University in Chicago, earning a B.A. in 1968 and an M.A. in 1971.

Growing up poor in rural Mississippi, Plumpp worked in the cotton and cornfields and by the time he was eleven, he was expected to grow up to be a field hand. A bootlegger aunt had other plans for him, however, and paid for him to attend Holy Ghost High School in Jackson, Mississippi. Earning a scholarship to a small local college, Plumpp began his college education, but the scholarship money ran out, so he hitchhiked to Chicago in 1962. He worked in a post office until 1964, and during that time, he began writing his poetry.

Plumpp saw his first poems published in 1971 in Negro Digest and was hired to teach English and later African American studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. His poetry, often based on blues and jazz rhythms, has won him numerous awards, including the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for poetry, and three Illinois Arts Council awards. He has published twelve volumes of his work.

In recent years, Plumpp won a lottery jackpot, and he plans on leaving most of the money to his daughter, whose birth he describes as his most joyous occasion in life. Some of the money will also be used for returning to his native South, as well as a trip to Africa. Plumpp retired from UIC in 2001.

Selected Bibliography

Plumpp, Sterling. Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing. Publishers Group West, 1982.
---. Ornate With Smoke. Third World Press, 1998.
---. Velvet BeBop Kente Cloth. Third World Press, 2001.

Accession Number

A2003.069

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/8/2003

Last Name

Plumpp

Maker Category
Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Sterling

Birth City, State, Country

Clinton

HM ID

PLU01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Depends on audience

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mississippi

Favorite Quote

You Have to Believe That You're Beyond the Best.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/30/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Catfish, Chicken

Short Description

Jazz and blues poet, african american studies professor, and english professor Sterling Plumpp (1940 - ) teaches at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Employment

United States Postal Service

University of Illinois, Chicago

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sterling Plumpp's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sterling Plumpp lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sterling Plumpp recalls his family's reluctance to share stories of American slavery

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sterling Plumpp describes his maternal grandfather's personality, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sterling Plumpp describes his maternal grandfather's personality, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sterling Plumpp describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sterling Plumpp describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sterling Plumpp talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sterling Plumpp recalls his mother's battle with cancer

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sterling Plumpp describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sterling Plumpp describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sterling Plumpp talks about junior high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sterling Plumpp talks about religion and attending Catholic school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sterling Plumpp talks about his experience at a Catholic high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sterling Plumpp talks about deciding to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sterling Plumpp describes his experience at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas and his decision to drop out after two years

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sterling Plumpp describes his move to Chicago, Illinois and his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sterling Plumpp talks about his interest in becoming a writer and joining the Chicago Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC)

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sterling Plumpp talks about his views on black literature and Hoyt Fuller

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sterling Plumpp talks about studying psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sterling Plumpp talks about being published by Detroit, Michigan's Broadside Press and Chicago, Illinois' Third World Press

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sterling Plumpp talks about the Institute of Positive Education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sterling Plumpp talks about the relationship between the Institute of Positive Education and the Congress of African People

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sterling Plumpp describes the split between the Institute for Positive Education and the Congress of African People

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sterling Plumpp talks about joining the faculty at University of Illinois at Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sterling Plumpp talks about his publications with Third World Press and other literary magazines

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sterling Plumpp talks about 'Black Rituals' and his views on religion

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sterling Plumpp shares his perspective on the Jewish salvation narrative

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sterling Plumpp explains his views on American politics

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sterling Plumpp talks about race and American capitalism

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sterling Plumpp talks about 'blackness' in American society and literature

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sterling Plumpp describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sterling Plumpp describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sterling Plumpp talks about rap music and the resurgence of poetry

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sterling Plumpp talks about potential writing projects

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sterling Plumpp talks about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sterling Plumpp considers his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sterling Plumpp recites from his poem, 'Clinton'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sterling Plumpp describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sterling Plumpp narrates his photographs