January 21, 1938 - present
Julia Fields was born in Perry County, Ala., and grew up on a farm. She was an avid reader and began writing poems as a child. She attended high school in Uniontown, Ala., working part-time at various jobs to help support her family. Fields graduated from Knoxville College, a Presbyterian college in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1961 with a BS in English. She taught school in Birmingham for several years. During the summers, she continued her education, at Middlebury College in Vermont in 1962 and at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1963. Fields’ first national publication occurred in 1962 when two of her poems were included in an anthology of black literature. Fields began publishing her poems in small national magazines such as Negro Digest. Her first short story, “Ten to Seven,” was published in Negro Digest in 1966.
In 1968, Fields became a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow at Miles College in Birmingham and received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. The same year, her first book, Poems, was published. Her most famous poem, “High on the Hog,” was published by Negro Digest in 1969. In 1972, Fields completed her MA in English at Middlebury College. Fields has published several additional poetry collections. Her short stories have never been collected, although her most famous story, “Not Your Singing Dancing Spade,” has been included in several anthologies. Her last book, a children’s book called The Green Lion of Zion Street, was published in 1988. In addition to teaching at Miles College, Fields has also taught at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C., East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, Howard University, and the University of the District of Columbia. She has lived in Washington, D.C., since the late 1970s.
In her poetry, Julia Fields uses humor and dialect to comment on the black experience in America and to explore the nature of black identity. While some of her poems describe famous black Americans, “Mr. Tut’s House” is about a former resident of Uniontown.
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Last updated on Jul 23, 2009.