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John Oliver Killens

A novelist, teacher, mentor, screenwriter, essayist, and activist, John Oliver Killens (1916–1987) is one of the most important figures in African American literary culture, considered one of the founding fathers of the Black Arts Movement. Three of his novels, Youngblood; And Then We Heard the Thunder; and The Cotillion, or One Good Bull Is Half the Herd, were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His students included Tina McElroy Ansa, Bebe Moore Campbell, Arthur Flowers, Nikki Giovanni, Elizabeth Nunez, Terry McMillan, and scores of others. In conjunction with his teaching appointments—the New School for Social Research, Fisk University, Columbia University, Howard University, Bronx Community College, and Medgar Evers College—Killens created and directed a series of writers conferences between 1965 and 1986 that served as milestones in African American literary history.
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