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Bebe Moore Campbell

Author Bebe Moore Campbell was born on February 19, 1950, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Doris Edwina Carter Moore and George Linwood Peter Moore. Campbell’s parents were well educated, and her father, a war veteran, was permanently paralyzed in an auto accident the year Campbell was born. Campbell’s parents separated in 1953, and she went on to live with her mother and maternal grandmother in Philadelphia during the school year and her father in North Carolina during the summer. Her experiences growing up in both the North and South gave her a unique perspective on racial segregation in the United States.

Campbell attended Philadelphia’s Girls High School and upon graduation was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh where she was the only African American in her dorm. Feeling isolated, Campbell decided to join the Black Action Society and tutor local elementary school children; she graduated with her B.S. degree in elementary education in 1972, and began teaching in the Atlanta public schools. In 1975, Campbell moved to Washington, D.C., where she continued to teach; after enrolling in a class led by Toni Cade Bambara, a renowned African American author, Campbell abandoned teaching to become a writer.

In the mid-1970s, Campbell was published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Essence, Ebony and Seventeen, among other publications; she also appeared as a regular commentator on National Public Radio. Campbell’s books were often informed by her own experiences and engaged with issues of interpersonal relationships. Campbell’s first book, a fictional work entitled Successful Women, Angry Men: Backlash in the Two Career Marriage, was an analysis of the relationship between a woman’s career and her marriage. Sweet Summer: Growing up With and Without My Dad, her second book, was a memoir of her childhood in a divorced family. Her most critically acclaimed novel, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, was an exploration of southern racism and the conflicts sparked by the murder of a fifteen-year-old boy; the book won an NAACP Image Award and was named a New York Times Notable book for 1992.

Campbell wrote eight books, three of which became New York Times best sellers; her awards included a 1978 Professional Woman’s Literature Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature grant, which she received in 1980.

Campbell lived in Los Angeles with her husband, Ellis, and had two children, Ellis Gordon, III, and Maia Campbell, now a successful actress.

Campbell passed away on November 27, 2006 at age 56.

Accession Number

A2005.226

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/3/2005

Last Name

Campbell

Maker Category
Middle Name

Moore

Occupation
Schools

James Logan Elementary School

Wagner Gen Louis Ms

Philadelphia High School for Girls

University of Pittsburgh

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bebe

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

CAM07

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

When You're Going Through Hell, Keep Going.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/19/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Seafood

Death Date

11/27/2006

Short Description

Fiction writer Bebe Moore Campbell (1950 - 2006 ) wrote eight books throughout her career, three of which became New York Times Best Sellers. Her awards included a 1978 Professional Woman's Literature Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature grant, which she received in 1980.

Employment

Essence Magazine

Black Enterprise Magazine

Howard University Press

Ebony Magazine

The Washington Post

Favorite Color

Green, Red, Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304039">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bebe Moore Campbell's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304040">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bebe Moore Campbell lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304041">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304042">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her father's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304043">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her father's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304044">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes how her parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304045">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her mother's education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304046">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304047">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her father's military service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304048">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her parents' marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304049">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls her father's car accident</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304050">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls her father's move to North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304051">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes Philadelphia's James Logan Elementary School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304052">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls getting into trouble in elementary school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304053">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her childhood neighborhood of North Philadelphia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304054">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her home life as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304055">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her elementary school, neighborhood and church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304056">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bebe Moore Campbell remembers graduating from elementary school and attending junior high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304057">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her interest in boxing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304058">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes General Louis Wagner Junior High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304059">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls growing up during the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304060">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes the Philadelphia High School for Girls</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304061">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her high school experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304062">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her high school principal and vice principal</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304063">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bebe Moore Campbell remembers encountering social divisions in high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304064">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bebe Moore Campbell remembers choosing to attend the University of Pittsburgh</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304065">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her first year in college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304066">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls her car accident and college activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304067">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bebe Moore Campbell talks about the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Action Society</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304068">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her parents' occupations during the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304069">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her college courses and career aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304070">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her interest in creative writing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304071">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes John Oliver Killens' writing workshop</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304072">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls working as a freelance writer for Essence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304073">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes working as a freelance writer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304074">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bebe Moore Campbell recalls her time as Black Enterprise's Washington, D.C. correspondent</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304075">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her nonfiction books</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304076">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bebe Moore Campbell talks about her book 'Your Blues Ain't Like Mine'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304077">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her novels</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304078">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her involvement with the National Alliance on Mental Illness</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304079">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bebe Moore Campbell talks about her husband, Ellis Gordon, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304080">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes her books for children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304081">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bebe Moore Campbell describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/304082">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bebe Moore Campbell shares advice for families of people with mental illness</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

2$5

DATitle
Bebe Moore Campbell describes her nonfiction books
Bebe Moore Campbell describes her involvement with the National Alliance on Mental Illness
Transcript
Now we're leading up to the time where you just hunkered down to do that first great work of fiction that, that you're doing.$$Well I did two non-fiction works before.$$Okay, let's, let's deal with them first.$$Yeah, I began to expand in terms of writing pieces for various magazines and I began to write for a magazine that's now going off print, Savvy magazine. And I got an assignment from the editor, Wendy Crisp to do a piece a--I think I asked her, I pitched it and she liked it on 'Successful Women, Angry Men: Backlash in the Two-Career Marriage.'$$Right.$$What happens when husband and wives are competitive with, with each other's careers, who's taking care of the kids, what are the disappointments? What happens when a woman does become very successful? How does a man handle it? So, I did this piece and it was well received and I went on 'The Phil Donahue Show' talking about it. Now at this time I had, I had a literary editor, agent and Carol Mann in New York [New York] and she had been trying to sale my novel that I was writing for a long time and, and nothing had been happening. So when this article came out around, I guess '83 [sic. 1985], and I had moved to California, by this time also, I had divorced my first husband [Tiko Campbell], moved to California, it must have been later, it must have been, it must have come out in '84 [1984]. Moved to California, remarried--$$You mean the article?$$The article.$$Okay.$$The Savvy article came out in '84 [1984] or about. And so, went on 'The Phil Donahue Show,' got lots of letters and I said to her, "Let's just table the novel for a minute, let me just get my foot in the door, why don't I expand this article and do a book on this whole phenomenon." She said okay and she sold it in a minute.$$Whoa.$$She sold it in a minute and so I was very excited and wrote the book ['Successful Women, Angry Men,' Bebe Moore Campbell], interviewed all these people, all these couples, wrote the book, turned it in and I saw that they were gonna give me a tour. Now by this time I had been writing for Essence for at least ten years, and I looked at the schedule and, you know, they said, "We're gonna try to get an excerpt in Glamour," and I thought why, why are you doing it in Glamour? Why don't you do it in Essence? I've got people who read me in Essence? Oh no. And I thought, oh they don't have a clue.$$Right.$$They don't have a clue. So I said, well let me, I said if they don't know what they're doing, this book isn't gonna sell and I'm not gonna be able to write anymore books.$$Exactly.$$So I, what I did was I figured out a way to help them sell it, I told them all the places I thought I needed to go, all the radio programs, black radio shows, the magazines, that they should be in touch with this church and that church and the civic organization and that civic organization and they didn't wanna to do it.$$Right.$$So I said, "Well look, I'll do it. You just help me a little bit, when I ask for books, you send them to these people and I'll give you the, the template letter," and so they agreed to do that. And the book sold well enough and so then I got a chance to do another one and the next one was 'Sweet Summer[: Growing Up With and Without My Dad,' Bebe Moore Campbell], and I did the same thing.$$Okay.$$You know, again I help--$$The formula that works.$$I, I helped them.$$Um-hm.$$And so, after that I wanted to do a novel and Random House [Penguin Random House, New York, New York], no it wasn't 'Sweets by Sweet' [ph.], but the second was 'Sweet Summer' with Putnam [G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, New York].$$Okay.$$Random House was interested in it so I went over to Putnam and I met Adrienne Ingram who was my editor and she was a black woman. And she got where we needed to place this book. So we really worked it and it, it did well and so then I was able to parlay that into a book contract for the next novel ['Your Blues Ain't Like Mine,' Bebe Moore Campbell] because, while 'Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad' was a memoir, it read like fiction, so they knew I could write fiction. So I got-$$Okay.$$So I didn't have to write the entire book. They trusted that I could do it and I just gave them kind of an outline and told them what it would be about and they said, okay fine.$Now you've followed this along in a number of personal ways, first of all like, you started the NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] chapter here in Los Angeles [California]?$$I co-founded it.$$You co-founded it.$$With some other people. Yeah I, in my own journey with my own loved one, I needed some support and I got, I found out about the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, or NAMI and started going, I took their class which is a twelve week course on the diseases of the brain, then I joined their support group and they also have a support group for people with mental illnesses. And after doing that I took teacher training and then when, some other people we opened up our own chapter, NAMI Inglewood [Inglewood, California], which is in a pre-predominately African American community.$$Okay. Right, right. And you participate in raising money for your chapter or for the national?$$Yeah, what I've done, yeah absolutely, we just had a great big walk, which was a major fundraiser, we had that on Saturday. What I do is, I do a lot of speaking for mental health organizations and as part of the book tour, '72 Hour Hold' [Bebe Moore Campbell] was successful in getting July declared National Minority Mental Health Month [Minority Mental Health Awareness Month].$$Okay.$$Which is a month that, I'm hoping churches, civic organizations, radios, TV, PSAs will go out and will get some education and some de-stigmatization around the issue of mental illness particularly in communities of color.$$Right, so you, you feel that a special effort has to be made for people of color?$$Absolutely, I mean, every one, no one wants to say, I'm not in control of my regardless of their race but, people of color, particularly African Americans really react adversely to being seen as having another deficit. We know that in a race conscious society we already have one deficit, so we don't wanna have to own up to having another one, so we go right into denial.$$Okay, and so you're trying to combat that?$$I am.