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Olivia Ward Bush

She was born in Long Island, New York. Bush was an author, poet and journalist of African and Montaukett-American descent and helped pioneer the way for other African-Americans and particularly female artists in America. Even at a young age Bush showed a talent for poetry and drama. By the time she was 30, she had already published her first book of poetry, Original Poems. Her short volume of work caught the attention of acclaimed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and helped earn Bush notoriety. By the 1920’s, Bush had turned her attention to writing about the African-American experience, inspired by the Great Migration and the new found Negro Movement. Her passionate writing on the struggles of African-Americans and the need for social change landed her a spot as a prominent Renaissance leader. Today, Olivia Ward Bush’s work is still considered revolutionary and particularly notable for preserving regional and ethnic dialects of Montaukett culture that would otherwise had no written record.

But when, within the wide domain
Of Future Day and Year
I stand, and o'er its sunlit Plain
A sweeter Voice I hear,
Which bids me leave the darkened Past
And crush its memory,–
I'll listen gladly, and obey
The Voice of Opportunity.

– Olivia Ward Bush

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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