Who Is Louise Patterson?


Quick Answer

Louise Patterson was an American social activist and college professor. She died on Aug. 27, 1999, and is best known for her participation in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s and the black arts movement of the 1960s.

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Full Answer

Patterson was born on Sept. 9, 1901, in Chicago. She studied economics at the University of California at Berkeley and later became a professor at the Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1923. She moved to New York City in 1928 to pursue social work and eventually became a prominent figure in the artistic community in Harlem. Patterson (then Louise Thompson) was an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural and social movement that took place there in the 1920s. She had a brief marriage to writer Wallace Thurman in 1928 and later developed a close friendship with poet Langston Hughes. In 1938, Hughes and Thompson founded the Harlem Suitcase Theater. He went on to dedicate his famous 1942 collection of poems, "Shakespeare In Harlem," to Thompson.

In 1940, she moved to Chicago and married William Patterson, a well-known figure in the American Communist Party. The couple protested the anti-communist policies of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and became involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Patterson died of natural causes on Aug. 27, 1999, at the age of 97 in New York City. She was survived by one daughter, MaryLouise Patterson.

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