Ekwueme Michael Thelwell is a writer, activist, and educator, born in Ulster Spring, Jamaica. After graduating from Jamaica College, he worked as a public relations assistant for Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation. He moved to the United States in 1959. He received a BA from Howard University and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Thelwell was a field secretary with SNCC, and he recruited volunteers for Freedom Summer from Washington in 1963. He also worked with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, running its congressional challenge campaign. He participated in anti-apartheid activism in the 1980s.
Thelwell is the author of two screenplays and has published stories and articles in Black Scholar, Negro Digest, The New York Times, and others. He also published the collection of essays Duties, Pleasures, and Conflicts (1987), and the novel The Harder They Come (1980), which Chinua Achebe called “a magnificent achievement – moving, eloquent, defiant…. A major milestone in the cultural history of black people.” His most recent work is the political autobiography of Stokely Carmichael, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (2003), which he co-wrote. He has published and lectured widely on James Baldwin.
Thelwell’s literary awards include fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Society for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Centennial Medal of the Institute of Jamaica. Since 1969, he has taught in the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he served as founding chairman, and is currently Professor of Literature and Writing.
- Interview by The Choices Program. April 2012.
- “H. Rap Brown/Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story.” The Nation. 28 February 2002.
Let Freedom Ring | April 16, 2008
SYMPOSIUM I | Art and Democracy in the King Years and Beyond: Scholarly Assessments