For further information on her life and works, see CLC, Volumes 19 and
Her canon includes more than 20 children's books, 11 volumes of poetry written for adults, and a memoir. Over the years, Clifton's poetry and prose have appeared in more than anthologies, magazines, and journals. Characterized by a feminine sensibility rooted in the history of African-American women, Clifton's works treat children, family, domesticity, and the concerns of ordinary women.
Her characters and speakers dwell mainly in urban settings—usually inner-city African-American neighborhoods and occasionally multicultural American neighborhoods. Affirmative, her works have a political agenda. They exude black racial pride and celebrate black womanhood. The vision that pervades Clifton's works is summarized in her memoir Generations.
Lines connect in thin ways that last and last and lives become generations made out of pictures and words just kept. Consistently hopeful, her works posit that humans determine their own fates and can conquer evil if they are strong and if they have the support of their families.
As her frequent recourse to biblical allusions implies, Clifton's hopefulness is rooted in Christian optimism. She is a descendent of Caroline Donald Sale, a Dahomey woman who was "born free in Africa" in and who "died free in America" inand of Sam Louis Sale, who was born a slave in America in and who died a slave in America around Clifton appears to have been guided through much of her life by the mantra of her foremother Caroline, who, Clifton says in Generations, urged her family, "Get what you want, you from Dahomey women.
After the war, her grandfather Gene Sayle was born to Harvey Nichols, a white man from Connecticut, and Clifton's namesake, Lucille Sayle, whose distinct place in family history was won when as punishment for killing Nichols, she allegedly became the first black woman hanged legally in the state of Virginia.
Clifton says in Generations that her father Samuel changed his surname from Sayle to Sayles "after finding a part of a textbook in which the plural was explained. There will be more than one of me, my father thought, and he added the s to his name.
Josephine, an older daughter who was born to his first wife, Edna Bell Sayles; Elaine, a daughter born to a neighbor woman six months after Clifton's birth; and Samuel, Jr.
Neither of Clifton's parents completed elementary school. A coal miner and a laborer in the Southher father worked in a steel mill after he migrated to the North. Her mother worked in a laundry. The family was poor; however, because their love sustained them, they were not worn down by penury.
She attributes her interest in writing and reading to her parents, both of whom were voracious readers. Her mother, who wrote verse during her spare moments, was her only role model as a poet other than the white male poets whose works were traditionally taught then in schools.
Her mother's poetry was good enough to warrant acceptance by a publisher, but the family disapproved. In response, her mother burned her poems and ceased writing. When Clifton was a small child, her family moved to Purdy Street in Buffalo.
As her poetry and prose reflect, her childhood years there were happy—so happy that they are the foundation of her first book of poems, Good Times Supported by a full scholarship provided by her church, she attended Howard from toa period during which Leroi Jones Amiri BarakaA.
Spellman, Owen Dodsonand Sterling Brown were there. In Generations, Clifton explains that when she went to college she was frightened.Lucille Clifton was born Thelma Lucille Sayles, daughter of Samuel L. Sayles and Thelma Moore Sayles, in Depew, New York, and grew up with two half sisters and a brother.
Born in to working-class parents Samuel Louis and Thelma Lucille Sayles, Lucille Clifton grew up in Depew, New York. She is descended from a long line of strong, resilient women who have battled and overcome adversity. A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton's work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life.
Awarding the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Clifton in , the judges remarked that “One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s . Lucille Clifton, original name Thelma Lucille Sayles, (born June 27, , Depew, New York, U.S.—died February 13, , Baltimore, Maryland), American poet whose works examine family life, racism, and gender..
Born of a family that was descended from slaves, she attended Howard University from to and graduated from Fredonia State .
Lucille Clifton was born and raised in Depew, N.Y.
(June 27, ). She attended Howard University in Washington D.C., Then transferring to Fredonia College near Buffalo, N.Y.
Lucille Clifton's father had three children in addition to Lucille: Josephine, an older daughter who was born to his first wife, Edna Bell Sayles; Elaine, a daughter born to a neighbor woman six months after Clifton's birth; and Samuel, Jr., a son born to his second wife, Thelma Moore Sayles, two years after Clifton's birth.