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Toni Cade Bambara (March 25, 1939December 9, 1995) was an Americanmarker author, social activist, and college professor.


Bambara was born Miltona Mirkin Cade on March 25, 1939. She grew up in Harlemmarker, Brooklynmarker, and Jersey Citymarker. She attended schools in New York City and the southern United States. She said that she would change her name to Toni while in kindergarten, and in 1970 added "Bambara" when she learned that her grandmother had taken that name as well.

She studied English and theater at Queen's College and mime in Francemarker in the 1960s. She also became interested in dance before pursuing graduate work in African fiction at the City College of New York. Bambara taught at Rutgers Universitymarker and Spelman College.

Bambara participated in several community and activist organizations, and her work was influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements of the 1960s.

Trips to Cuba in 1973 and Vietnam in 1975 prompted Bambara to contextualize the struggles of African Americans in relation to the Third World.

Bambara wrestled with and finally died of colon cancer in 1995.


Considered one of the best African American short story writers, her first collection, Gorilla, My Love, was published in 1972. She preferred to classify her writing as upbeat fiction. Most of the stories in Gorilla, My Love are told through a first-person point of view. The narrator (in many of the stories) is a sassy young girl who is tough, brave, and caring. These stories include "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird" as well as "Raymond's Run."

Active in the 1960s Black Arts and Black feminist movements, Bambara edited the 1970 anthology The Black Woman, a collection of poetry, short stories, and essays by such seminal writers as Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Paule Marshall, as well as Bambara herself. The anthology was extremely influential. She also wrote the introduction for the groundbreaking feminist anthology by women of color, This Bridge Called My Back (1981) edited by Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga.

In 1980, the first edition of her novel The Salt Eaters appeared in print. Her novel about the disappearance and murder of forty black children in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981, Those Bones Are Not My Child (originally entitled If Blessings Come), was published posthumously in 1999. The novel was edited by Toni Morrison, who regarded it as her masterpiece. Author/editor Toni Morrison gathered Bambara's short stories, essays, and interviews in a volume published by Vintage as Deep Sightings & Rescue Missions: Fiction: Essays & Conversations in 1996.

Her writing was strongly informed by radical politics, feminism, and African American culture. Bambara's works were often explicitly political, concerning themselves in general with injustice and oppression and in particular with the fate of African American communities and grassroots political organizations, as in The Salt Eaters, and The Bombing of Osage Avenue, which deals with the 1985 bombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia. Female protagonists and narrators dominate her writings. Bambara writes through African American cultural conventions, incorporating African American dialect, oral traditions, and jazz techniques. Other influences include the diverse Harlem community she grew up around as well as her principled and strong-willed mother, who urged her children to take pride in African American culture and history.

Bambara produced many other significant works as well. She also contributed to PBS's American Experience documentary series with "Midnight Ramble": Oscar Micheaux and the Story of Race Movies. She also was one of four filmmakers who made the collaborative 1995 documentary W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices.



  • The Salt Eaters (1980)
  • Those Bones Are Not My Child (1999)

Short Story Collections

"Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird" (1971)
  • Gorilla, My Love (1972)
  • The Sea Birds Are Still Alive (1977)
  • Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions (1996)
  • The Lesson (1972)
  • Raymond's Run"
  • The War of the Wall


  • The Bombing of Osage Avenue (1986)
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (1995)


External links

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