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Subject: [BIBB] Fw: BioRC: Eloise Bibb Thompson
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2003 15:19:54 -0000

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Subject: BioRC: Eloise Bibb Thompson

> Biography Resource Center -- Narrative Biography Display
> Biography Resource Center
> Eloise Bibb Thompson
> Birth: June 29, 1878 in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
> Death: January 8, 1928
> Nationality: American
> Ethnicity: African American
> Occupation: writer, journalist
> Source: Notable Black American Women, Book 1. Gale Research, 1992.
> TABLE OF CONTENTSBiographical Essay
> Further Readings
> Source Citation
> BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY Eloise Bibb Thompson, poet, short story writer,
> lecturer, and playwright, became prominent in social and religious circles
> of the late 1890s and early 1900s. A devout Catholic with a need for
> she devoted her life to the advancement of her race. According to one of
> her contemporaries, Delilah Beasley, in The Negro Trail Blazers of
> Thompson's solution for the plight of the more than seven million blacks
> living on the East and West Coasts in 1919 was simple--to "enter the bosom
> of the church" to find meaning and purpose in life (255). This
> approach pervaded all of her work.
> Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 29, 1878, Eloise Alberta Veronica
> Bibb Thompson was the only child of middle-class parents, Charles H. Bibb
> and Catherine Adele Bibb. Her father was a United States customs inspector
> for roughly forty years. Following an early education in New Orleans,
> published her first volume of verse, Poems (Boston: Monthly Review Press,
> 1895), when she was seventeen. Though critics of this small volume failed
> to take into account her youth, one critic remarked that the verse was
> "neat and prim" (Loggins, 355). Another critic concluded that "over half
> the poems ... are romantic narratives of star-crossed lovers and agonized
> heroes [and] ... the poetic sentiments are those of a girl in love with
> love, the more tempestuous the better" (Sherman, 205). Despite this
> Eloise Bibb's poems reveal a range of interests--religion, history,
> tributes; and love--that is unusual in a girl so young. Her personal
> to Alice Ruth Moore reveals a light-hearted imagination:
> I peer adown a shining group,
> Where sages grace the throng,
> And see the bard of Wheatley Club
> Proclaimed the Queen of Song.
> Fair Alice! shed thy radiance more
> And charm us with thy verse;
> So dulcet, so harmonious,
> So graceful, sweet, and terse.
> Dedicated to Alice Ruth Moore, who later married Paul Lawrence Dunbar,
> "To the Sweet Bard of the Women's Club" suggests that Thompson perceived
> Moore as her mentor and as a source of inspiration. According to R. Baxter
> Miller, African-American scholar, Thompson's poetry reveals occasionally
> "brilliant originality of thought" that is "typical of the late nineteenth
> century" (Interview with R. Baxter Miller, 21 June 1990).
> From 1899 to 1901, five years after the publication of her first volume
> of poetry, Thompson attended Oberlin College Preparatory Academy. At the
> end of her fifth term, she returned to New Orleans and taught in the
> schools for two years. In the fall of 1902, she entered Teachers College
> of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and graduated in January 1908.
> Shortly afterwards, she became head of the Social Settlement at Howard
> from 1908 to 1911.
> In Chicago on August 4, 1911, Eloise Bibb married Noah Thompson, a
> black Catholic journalist who was prominent in black literary circles in
> Los Angeles, California. He was a thirty-three-year-old widower with a
> son, Noah Murphy. According to Mary Scally's Negro Catholic Writers,
> Bibb and Noah Murphy were "well matched because of their common interest
> in religion, literature, and the advancement of the Negro in the United
> States" (115).
> While still newlyweds, the two moved to Los Angeles, where they became
> active immediately in church work and continued their careers as well.
> Besides the real estate business, Noah Thompson was on the editorial staff
> of the Evening Express and the Morning Tribune. Meanwhile, Eloise Bibb
> Thompson "made her mark as a rising star" as a special writer for the Los
> Angeles Tribune and the Morning Sun (Shockley, 234).
> In addition to her career in journalism, Eloise Bibb Thompson contributed
> articles and poetry to the popular magazines Out West and The Tidings,
> an organ of the Diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles. The latter magazine
> published her article, "The Church and the Negro," which her
> considered a significant contribution. When she addressed the Catholic
> Women's Clubs of Los Angeles in the Knights of Columbus Hall, Thompson
> made a lasting impression. The daily newspaper commented favorably on
> appearance and speech delivery but made no mention of her race.
> of this kind by black women, however, were indeed rare.
> Journalist Becomes Playwright
> Eloise Bibb Thompson turned to playwriting and short fiction around 1915.
> Because she spoke candidly to mixed audiences about racial issues, her
> first dramatic work, A Reply to Clansmen, was created in the midst of
> Opportunity reports that the play, "a scenario in form," was sold to
> H. Ince in 1915 for one hundred five dollars (63). However, the play was
> never produced by the Triangle Film Corporation, forcing Thompson to hire
> a lawyer to gain its return. Further complications ensued when D. W.
> expressed interest in producing "an exceptional story of great
> [and] material of remarkable caliber" (Opportunity, 63). He, too, faltered
> on the oral commitment. The underlying reason for the rejection of
> play is that it was a response to Thomas Dixon's novel, The Clansman, an
> account glorifying the Ku Klux Klan. In 1915 D. W. Griffith bought the
> rights from Dixon and made The Birth of a Nation.
> In the decade of the 1920s, Eloise Bibb Thompson produced three plays.
> The Playcrafters performed Caught (1920) at the Gamut Club. Frank Egan,
> owner of Egan Theatre, purchased Africannus, also referred to as Africans
> (1922). The plot centers on a group of Bantus who involve American
> in their liberation plans. Although one Los Angeles reviewer noted that
> the piece was episodic and melodramatic, she related that it was the
> time in Los Angeles theatre history that a drama about an African country,
> written by a black author and intended for a black audience had been
> by an all black cast" (Durham, 249). The performance featured Pauline
> and Malcolm Patton, Jr. A more successful play for Eloise Bibb Thompson
> was Cooped Up (1924), a roominghouse drama of sexual passion written when
> she was a member of the National Ethiopian Art Theatre students. Cast
> included Ardell Dabney, F. Eugene Corbie, Lillian Creamer, G. Alfred
> Joseph A. Steber, and Hemsley Winfield (Kellner, 261). Critics hailed the
> play as "amazingly realistic ... [with] the possibility of romanticizing
> Negro life" (Opportunity, 64).
> The racial issue permeated Eloise Bibb Thompson's short fiction as it had
> her playwriting. In both "Mademoiselle `Tasie--A Story" and "Masks," the
> "passing" issue plagues blacks within and without the Creole subculture.
> In the first story, which Edward O'Brien of the Boston Transcript called
> one of the "best short stories of 1925," Thompson portrays `Tasie, as the
> youngest daughter "of an exceptional Creole family," speaking only "patois
> French." A thirty-seven-year-old woman with "very crinkled red hair," she
> is forced to work for a former slave. The notion of color pervades all
> of `Tasie's and her family's thinking. To them, the worst crime was to
> be seen on the street with an American Negro--"Negre aux grosse
> dark complexion and with big ears. Realizing the disparity between her
> dreams and reality, `Tasie meets dark-skinned Titus Johnson, a
> businessman. She learns a valuable lesson about life and love. By her own
> admission, `Tasie becomes "entirely forgetful of his color" and marries
> ("Mademoiselle `Tasie," 278).
> In her second story, "Masks," Eloise Bibb Thompson addresses the question
> of passing and the color line for two mulattoes. Julie, a quadroon, and
> her husband, Paupet, an octoroon, live in the French Quarter of New
> The plot focuses on the efforts of her grandfather, Aristile Blanchard,
> to defy nature by designing a mask of the white man's face, feeling that
> it would "open the barred and bolted doors of privilege for those who
> thereon" (Masks: A Story, 302). He dies unsuccessful in his attempts to
> cease judging a person by skin color. Trying to come to grips with her
> grandfather's "half-crazed tirade" against the white oppressors, Julie
> takes the idea of passing one step further. She marries the "whitest
> that she had ever seen," hoping to insure her offspring can pass and never
> face racial discrimination. Eloise Bibb Thompson gives an ironic ending
> to the story; Julie gives birth to a black offspring. The inscription on
> her tombstone reads, "Because she saw with the eyes of her grandfather,
> she died at the sight of her babe's face."
> Eloise Bibb Thompson's concern for the welfare of her people permeated
> her life and work. Unafraid to express faith in her race, she lent her
> voice to the movement toward equality of opportunity throughout the United
> States. Though much of her writing is scattered, she and her husband,
> worked hard to improve conditions for blacks. Her sudden and untimely
> on January 8, 1928, extinguished a "magnificent spirit which lighted her
> approach to life" (Obituary, 37).
> FURTHER READINGS * Abajian, James de T. Blacks in Selected Newspapers,
> Censuses, and Other Sources. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1977.
> * Arata, Esther Spring. Black American Playwrights, 1800 to the Present:
> A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976. 191.
> * Beasley, Delilah L. The Negro Trail Blazers of California. Los
> The Author, 1919. Reprinted. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.
> 130, 254-55.
> * Bibb, Eloise. Poems. 1895. In Collected Black Women's Poetry. Vol.
> 4. Ed. Joan Sherman. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
> * ------. "Mademoiselle `Tasie--A Story." Opportunity 3 (September
> 272-78.
> * ------. "Masks: A Story." Opportunity 5 (October 1927): 300-302.
> * Durham, Weldon B., ed. American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930. New
> Greenwood Press, 1987.
> * Hatch, James V., and Omanni Abdullah, eds. Black Playwrights,
> New York: Bowker, 1977.
> * Interview with R. Baxter Miller, 21 June 1990.
> * Kellner, Bruce, ed. The Harlem Renaissance: A Historical Dictionary
> for the Era. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. 261.
> * Loggins, Vernon. The Negro Author. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat
> Press, 1964. 355.
> * Miller, R. Baxter. Interview with authors, 21 June 1990.
> * Obituary. Opportunity 6 (February 1928): 37.
> * Rush, Theressa Bunnels, Carol Fairbanks Myers, and Esther Spring
> eds. Black American Writers Past and Present. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow
> Press, 1975. 75.
> * Scally, Mary Anthony. Negro Catholic Writers 1900-1943. Grosse Pointe,
> Mich.: Walter Romig, 1945. 144-45.
> * Sherman, Joan R. Invisible Poets: Afro-Americans of the Nineteenth
> Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989. 204-206.
> * Shockley, Ann Allen, ed. Afro-American Women Writers 1746-1933.
> G. K. Hall, 1988. 233-35.
> * Stetson, Erlene. "Black Women in and out of Print." Women in Print:
> Opportunities for Women's Studies Research in Language and Literature.
> Vol. 1. Eds. Joan R. Hartman and Ellen Messer-Davidow. New York: Modern
> Language Association, 1982. 99.
> SOURCE CITATION "Eloise Bibb Thompson." Notable Black American Women,
> Book 1. Gale Research, 1992.
> Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The
> Gale Group. 2003.
> Document Number: K1623000442
> (c) 2003 by The Gale Group, Inc.

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