Jan. 1, 1915 Union Springs Bullock County Alabama, USA
Jul. 16, 1998 Manhattan New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
Pan Africanist, author, lecturer, professor and historian, Clarke was the oldest son of eight children born to sharecroppers John Doctor and Willie Ella [Mays] Clark. His siblings were Eddie Mary Clarke Hobbs, Walter Clarke, Hugo Oscar Clarke, Earline Clark, Flossie Clarke, Alvin Clarke and Nathaniel Clarke.
Originally born John Henry Clark, he adopted the middle name Henrik (after Henrik Ibsen) and added the 'e' to his last name.
He left his hometown of Columbus, Georgia aboard a freight train in 1933 by way of Chicago headed to New York. Along the way he enlisted in the Us Army and achieved the rank of Master Sergeant. Once in New York he began a life of scholarship and activism. Participation in study circles including the Harlem History Club and the Harlem Writers' Workshop, The Harlem Writers Guild, Freedomways, Presence Africaine, African Heritage Studies Association, Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, National Council of Black Studies, Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. Clarke formally studied history and world literature at New York and Columbia Universities and at the League for Professional Writers. After nurturing his skills as a writer and lecturer he set out on a "Great and Mighty Walk" to tell the true history of African people.
Clarke was noted for his oratorical skills. He published over fifty short stories including "The Boy Who Painted Christ Black" which was translated into several languages, included in numerous anthologies and immortalized on film as a segment in the HBO film "American Dreams."
Dr. Clarke wrote or edited over thirty books and contributed articles to countless journals and conferences. His opinion on African and African American history, culture and politics was valued worldwide. At one time he wrote a syndicated newspaper column entitled "African World Bookshelf" which was syndicated to over fifty newspapers. He held wide influence in the literary world as editor of the Negro History Bulletin from 1948 to 1952), associate editor of the magazine Freedomways, and feature writer for both the Pittsburgh Courier and the Ghana Evening News.
Clarke fathered three children by his first wife Lillie: Sonni Kojo, Nzingha Marie and a daughter who predeceased him. His second wife was Sybille Williams-Clarke.
In 1996 a biographical documentary film entitled "John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk" was produced by Wesley Snipes and directed by St. Claire Bourne.
Note: He wrote his own obituary which can be found at http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/clarke3.html