From The Confessions of Willie Styron

John Oliver Killens (1916–1987), an influential essayist, novelist, screenwriter, and teacher, was born in Macon. Co-founder of the Harlem Writers Guild and a vice-president of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, Killens worked as a teacher and lecturer at many schools and universities, including Fisk, Howard, and Columbia. His first novel, Youngblood (1954), tells the story of an African American family’s struggles in the fictional town of Crossroads, Georgia, during the Jim Crow era of the 1920s; it has been reprinted several times, most recently in 2000 by the University of Georgia Press. Killens’ novels And Then We Heard the Thunder (1963) and Cotillion, or One Good Bull Is Half the Herd (1971) were each nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.  His other books include the essay collection Black Man’s Burden (1965); a novel about the life and work of poet Alexander Pushkin, Great Black Russian (1989); and two books for young readers, Great Gittin’ Up Morning: A Biography of Denmark Vesey (1972) and—recounting the adventures of John Henry—A Man Ain’t Nothin’ but a Man (1975). John Oliver Killens died in Brooklyn, New York in 1987. (Inducted as a charter member in 2000)