Gerald Early

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Gerald L. Early
Gerald Early.jpg
Born (1952-04-21) April 21, 1952 (age 66)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alma mater Cornell University
University of Pennsylvania
Occupation Professor
Employer Washington University in St. Louis
Known for American literature; African-American culture; Non-fiction prose, Baseball, Jazz music, Prizefighting, Motown
Spouse(s) Ida Early (1977–present)
Website Faculty page for Gerald Early at Washington University in St. Louis

Gerald Lyn Early (born April 21, 1952) is an American essayist and American culture critic. He is currently the Merle Kling Professor of Modern letters, of English, African studies, African American studies, American culture studies, and Director, Center for Joint Projects in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.[1]

He also served as a consultant on Ken Burns' documentary films Baseball, Jazz, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, and The War. He is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Fresh Air. His essays have appeared in numerous editions of Best American Essays series. He writes on topics as diverse as American literature, the Korean War, African American culture, Afro-American autobiography, non-fiction prose, baseball, jazz, prizefighting, Motown, Miles Davis, Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis Jr.[2]

Background and education

Early was born April 21, 1952, in Philadelphia, the son of Henry Early and Florence Fernandez Oglesby. His father, a baker, died when Early was nine months old, leaving his mother, a preschool teacher, to raise him and his two sisters on her own. Living in a poor area of the city, Early grew up befriending members of the Fifth and the South Street gangs, though he never became a member himself. Instead he focused on scholarly pursuits, graduating cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974. During Early's undergraduate years, he was introduced to the writings of Amiri Baraka and later credited the poet and playwright with influencing his own work. Early developed much of his writing style through involvement with the university newspaper. Ironically, his first major piece was a journalistic foray into the gang-related murder of a cousin.[3]

After earning his B.A., Early returned to Philadelphia, where he became employed by the city government. He also spent six months monitoring gang activities through the Crisis Intervention Network before resuming his course work at Cornell University, where he eventually earned a doctorate in English literature in 1982. Early landed his first teaching job as an assistant professor of black studies at St. Louis's Washington University in 1982. He would steadily rise to a full professorship in both the English and the renamed African and Afro-American studies departments by 1990.[4]

Personal life

On August 27, 1977, Early married Ida Haynes, a college administrator. They have two children, Linnet Kristen Haynes Early and Rosalind Lenora Haynes Early.

Awards and honors

Early won a Whiting Award in 1988 for creative nonfiction.

For his essay collection The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture, he won the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award.

He has been nominated for the Grammy Award Best Album Notes twice in 2001 for Yes I Can! The Sammy Davis Jr. Story and in 2002 for Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words From The Harlem Renaissance.

On September 5, 2007, Professor Early was honored by Washington University with the unveiling of a portrait painted by Jamie Adams which hangs in the Journals Reading Room of the university's Olin Library.

In 2013 Gerald Early was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[5]


  • Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture (1989)
  • Life with Daughters:Watching the Miss America Pageant (1990)
  • The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture (1994)
  • Daughters: On Family and Fatherhood (1994) (memoir)
  • One Nation Under a Groove: Motown & American Culture (1994) (music history)
  • How the War in the Streets Is Won: Poems on the Quest of Love and Faith (Time Being Books, 1995) (poetry)
  • Yes I Can! The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (2001) nominated for a Grammy (Best Album Notes)
  • Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words From the Harlem Renaissance (2002) (nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes)

Editing work

  • Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity and the Ambivalence of Assimilation (1993)
  • Ain't But a Place: An Anthology of African American Writings About St. Louis (1998)
  • Body Language: Writers on Sport (1998)
  • The Muhammad Ali Reader (1998)
  • Miles Davis and American Culture (2001)
  • The Sammy Davis, Jr. Reader (2001)
  • Black America in the 1960s (2003)
  • My Soul's High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen(1991)
  • Speech and Power: The African-American Essay in Its Cultural Content(1993)


  1. ^ Washington University Faculty Page: Gerald L. Early: Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters. [1]
  2. ^ Washington University Faculty Page. Ibid
  3. ^ Profile of Gerald Early
  4. ^ Ibid
  5. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved 25 April 2013. 

External links

  • Washington University Faculty Page
  • Gerald Early. What Is African-American Literature? America. gov. 05 February 2009
  • DTM interview
  • Profile at The Whiting Foundation
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