Clarissa Scott Delany

Born: 1901

Clarissa Scott Delany was born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1901, and raised at the famed Tuskegee Institute, where her father, Emmett J. Scott, was secretary to founder Booker T. Washington. Delany continued her secondary education in New England at the Bradford Academy before enrolling at Wellesley in 1919. An avid athlete, she was the first Black student to receive a varsity letter at Wellesley for hockey. During her college years, she participated in Delta Sigma Theta, the debate team, and the Christian Association. Upon her graduation in 1923, she stood amongst students with the highest grades, earning Phi Beta Kappa honors. Her poem “Joy” revels in the importance of love and laughter. The two-stanza poem describes Delany’s unwavering happiness, despite isolating and disorienting experiences that threaten to steal her joy. After graduating from Wellesley, Delany became involved in the Harlem Renaissance as an essayist, poet, educator, and social worker. W.E.B. Du Bois and other leading intellectuals celebrated her poetry. During her time in New York City as a social worker, Delany gathered research about at-risk African American children in cooperation with the National Urban League and Women’s City Club of New York. Unfortunately, Delany’s life was cut short due to an illness in 1926. While she was never able to realize her full potential, her important contributions had lasting impacts on many people—including her readers. Source