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Clifton, Lucillelocked

(27 June 1936–13 February 2010)
  • Hilary Holladay


Clifton, Lucille (27 June 1936–13 February 2010), (27 June 1936–13 Feb. 2010), poet, author of children’s books, memoirist, and college professor, was born Thelma Lucille Sayles in Depew, New York. Her parents, Thelma Moore Sayles and Samuel Louis Sayles, moved north during the Great Migration, Thelma coming from Georgia and Samuel from Virginia. Strong-willed and proud of his family roots going back to Dahomey, Africa, Samuel Sayles was a steelworker and widower who had a daughter by his first wife. In 1937, a year after Lucille’s birth, he fathered a third daughter by a neighbor woman. He and Thelma Sayles, a laborer turned homemaker, then had a son in 1938. The family moved to nearby Buffalo when Lucille was a young child. Although neither parent had attended school for more than a few years, both were avid readers. Her father was a storyteller, and Thelma Sayles enjoyed writing poems. Their daughter frequently told the story of sharing one of her early free-verse poems with her mother, who responded, “Baby, that ain’t no poem!,” and proceeded to show her daughter how to write rhymed, metrical verse....

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