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Photo of Olivia Ward Bush Banks: (1869—1944)

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Olivia Ward Bush-Banks was born in Sag Harbor on May 23, 1869, with her heritage being of African-American and Montaukett Native American descent. She was then raised in Providence, Rhode Island, where she received training as a seamstress and developed a love for drama and poetry. She would also work in a settlement house in Boston where she could write for the Colored American magazine as a regular contributor. She was also a literary editor of the Citizen magazine.

Her poems, elegies, odes, and plays as part of the Harlem Renaissance, in which she would also assist sculptor Richmond Barthé and author/poet Langston Hughes in their early years. While in New York City, she worked in the WPA community Drama unit. Many of her published and unpublished works are in the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University. An Oxford University publication of her selected works was edited by a descendant, Dr. Bernice Guillaume.

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