Get Your Premium Membership

Sonia Sanchez Biography | Poet

Photo of Sonia Sanchez

Wilsonia Benita Driver Became Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez was born Wilsonia Benita Driver on the ninth of September in 1934. Her birthplace was in Birmingham, Alabama, but she also spent a portion of her early life in Harlem. Since then, Sonia Sanchez has worked as a teacher, professor, activist, and as one of the most influential and famous poets in the world. Her best works include Homegirls and Handgrenades, Shake Loose My Skin, and Morning Haiku. Sonia Sanchez was the first Philadelphia Poet Laureate.

Educating Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez did her undergraduate work at Hunter College, earning a Bachelor's degree in Political Science but taking a lot of creative writing classes at the same time. She conducted her postgraduate work at New York University. However, Sonia Sanchez has primarily been an educator herself throughout her life, so she has mainly approached the world of academia from the other side.

The People Who Shaped Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez lost her mother when she was only two years old, and she was primarily raised by members of her extended family. In 1943, she went to her father, stepmother, and sister's home in Harlem.

Sonia Sanchez lost her beloved grandmother at the tender age of six. Her grief caused her develop a pronounced speech impediment in the form of a stutter. Between the stutter and the grief that she experienced, she ended up becoming isolated from her peers. However, this experience did cause her to become a prodigious reader. Having an unconventional manner of speaking as a result of stuttering also caused her to think of the fundamentals of language in a more academic sense.

From a brief period, Sonia Sanchez worked as a fifth grade teacher at Downtown Community School. Since then, she has been a professor at eight different institutions of higher learning, and has been a lecturer at a total of five hundred of them.

Honoring the Accomplishments of Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez has had one of the most distinguished careers of any living poet. Sonia Sanchez has been receiving awards since the year 1969 with the P.E.N. Writing Award and received the National Education Association Award from 1977 to 1988. In 1978 to 1979, she won the National Academy and Arts Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award.

Her honors and awards have continued into the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Sonia Sanchez earned the 1993 Pew Fellowships in the Arts. She was awarded the 1999 Langston Hughes Poetry Award, the Harper Lee Award in 2004, and the National Visionary Leadership Award in 2006. In 2001, she received one of the most lofty honors that a poet can receive for his or her work, taking home the Robert Frost Medal.

Homegirls and Handgrenades is considered one of her finest works. She received the American Book Award for it in 1985. Her bibliography is extensive, and includes famous works like Shake Loose My Skin, Morning Haiku, and the plays I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't and Other Plays and The Bronx is Next. She is still producing more work today, even very late in life.

The Inspirational Power of Sonia Sanchez

Sonia is one of the most influential contributors to the Black Arts Movement. Unlike many poets of her time and many poets today, Sonia Sanchez worked to celebrate African American Vernacular English, which tends to get ignored or outright criticized by the literary and poetic establishment.

People often think of the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes when they think of influential black poets. Black woman poets, especially those who are more modern, tend to get left out of the conversation. The fame and success of Sonia Sanchez has at least helped to remedy that situation. She has inspired other black woman poets, such as Krista Franklin. Sonia Sanchez has been a passionate supporter of civil rights throughout her career, and she has been involved in civil rights movements for decades.

Her poetic style is wonderfully eclectic, and manages to blend haiku, tanka, and the musical styles from genres like the blues. As such, her sound is very unique and difficult for other people to replicate. Sonia Sanchez has a great deal of cultural power, and a talent that matches her desire for social justice. 

Sonia Sanchez: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes