- Amande E. Strauss
Christian, Barbara (12 December 1943–25 July 2000), pioneering scholar in black feminist literary criticism, was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, one of six children of Ruth Christian and Judge Alphonso A. Christian. A precocious scholar from a young age, Christian graduated as high school valedictorian from Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in St. Thomas at the age of fifteen. She matriculated to Marquette University, a Jesuit Catholic university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she earned a B.A. cum laude in 1963. She planned to become a medical doctor and declared a major in chemistry but changed course during her sophomore year when she discovered T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland.” Christian pursued her doctorate at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its close proximity to Harlem. She studied contemporary British and American literature, obtaining an M.A. in 1964 and a Ph.D. with distinction in 1970. Her dissertation, “Spirit Bloom in Harlem. The Search for a Black Aesthetic during the Harlem Renaissance: The Poetry of Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, and Jean Toomer,” foreshadowed Christian’s lifelong commitment to illuminating and promoting the rich African American literary canon....