Collecting Delaware Books

Jay Saunders Redding 1906-1988

This article first appeared in June 1992

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portrait j b redding
Jay Saunders Redding 1906

Jay Saunders Redding was born in Wilmington on October 13, 1906, the third of five surviving children. He was an educator and writer for five decades. Two of his books include stories of Wilmington.

His parents were graduates of Howard University. His father taught at Howard and was a school teacher in Maryland. In 1898, he moved to Wilmington, where he became a postal worker. He was secretary of the local NAACP chapter, founded a YMCA branch, and was a trustee in his church.

Redding's mother introduced the children to reading and oratory. His older brother, Louis, became Delaware's first African-American lawyer and had a major role in Brown v. Board of Education before the U. S. Supreme Court.

J. S. Redding graduated from Wilmington's segregated Howard High School in 1923, where Alice Dunbar Nelson was an important influence on his future writing. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, then transfered to Brown University. After graduation in 1928, he taught at Morehouse College. There he met and married Esther Elizabeth James in 1929. He returned to Brown in 1932 and received the M. A. degree, then did further graduate work at Columbia University.

He taught at Louisville (Kentucky) Municipal College, Southern University, Elizabeth City (North Carolina) State Teachers College, Hampton Institute, and George Washington University. Redding was visiting professor at Brown, Grinnell College, and Duke University. He was an exchange teacher in India in 1952 and Africa in 1962. Eight honorary degrees, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, and two Guggenheim fellowships were awarded to him. He was Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University from 1970 until retirement in 1975.

Redding died in Ithaca, New York, March 2, 1988.

List of Books and Editions

(The author is variously listed as J. Saunders Redding or Saunders Redding.)

To Make a Poet Black
1939 University of North Carolina Press
1968 McGrath Publ. Co.
1978 Core Collection Books
1988 new edition, Cornell University Press
(Evaluates two centuries of African-American poetry.)

No Day of Triumph
1942 Harper
1968 J. & J. Harper
(The first 33 pages tell of his boyhood in Wilmington.)

Stranger and Alone: A Novel
1950 Harcourt, Brace
1950 Harper & Row
1969 Harcourt, Brace
1969 Harper & Row
1989 Northeastern University Press
(Based on his own early teaching experiences.)

They Came in Chains: Americans from Africa
1950 Lippincott
1969 Lippincott
1973 revised, Lippincott
(History told in the lives of individuals.)

On Being Negro in America
1950 Bobs-Merrill
1962 Charter Books
1964 Bantam Books
1969 Harper & Row
(Redding's most powerful book. Includes a summary of the state of civil rights leadership just prior to the 1960s. There are also several Wilmington scenes, including the August Quarterly.)

An American in India
1954 Bobbs-Merrill
1967 Bobs-Merrill
(Redding's perspective on the problems of India.)

The Lonesome Road
1958 Doubleday
1958 Dolphin Books
1973 Anchor Press/Doubleday
(More history as biography.)

The Negro
1967 Potomac Books
(Includes suggestion's for further reading.)

Cavalcade (compiler, with Arthur P. Davis)
1971 Houghton Mifflin
1983 Howard University Press
(Anthology of African American writing in historical perspective.)

Instructor's Guide to Accompany Cavalcade
1971 Houghton Mifflin

Reading for Writing (editor, with Ivan E. Taylor)
1952 Ronald Press

(For additional publications and criticism, see the Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 76, Detroit: Gale, 1988 and Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, vol. 26, Detroit: Gale, 1989.)

Redding Dissertation — Note from August 1994 issue

Harry F. Themal�s column in the News Journal is always worth reading for local information, often about books. It appears in the Opinion section on Mondays. On Monday, August 15, Themal reported on the doctoral dissertation of Annette Woolard, assistant director of the Historical Society of Delaware. It studies Delaware�s Redding family.

In Themal�s words, "Now we have a remarkable account of a remarkable family, the Reddings, whose chronicles provide an incisive look at a minority within a minority: the African-American middle class."

J. Saunders Redding was the subject of an article in volume 1, number 3 of Collecting Delaware Books (reproduced and updated above). He was a college educator and author, and his books are collected. His elder brother, Louis was a nationally prominent civil rights lawyer. Two sisters, Lillian and Gwendolyn, taught at Wilmington�s Howard High School.

The dissertation, "A Family of Firsts: The Reddings of Delaware," is on file at the historical society and can be read there. We have heard of no plans to publish it in book form, but such things do happen, if there is enough interest.

We thank Harry Themal for calling this document to our attention. — JPR

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