NW Quadrant, East of Rock Creek, African American, Federal Government Employees, Howard University, Radicals, Also of Interest

John Killens
(January 14, 1916 – October 27, 1987)

Harvard Hall, 1650 Harvard St. NW, Columbia Heights neighborhood, DC.

A novelist who co-founded the Harlem Writers Guild and founded the National Black Writers Conference, Killens was a visiting writer at Howard University from 1971 to 1972. He was a leader in the Black Arts Movement and a civil rights activist. In addition to Howard, he was also a writer-in-residence at the New School for Social Research, Fisk University, Columbia University, Bronx Community College, and Medgar Evers College.

Killens wrote four novels, two of which were nominated for Pulitzer Prizes: Youngblood (1954), And Then We Heard the Thunder (1962), Sippi (1967), and The Cotillion, or One Good Bull is Half the Herd (1971). He also wrote plays and screenplays.

Killens first moved to DC in 1936 to work for the National Labor Relations Board and complete a BA, taking night classes at Howard. He left in 1942, but returned after a stint in the Army, from 1947 to 1948, before moving to New York. During the 1970s Howard University housed a series of visiting writers at Harvard Hall, including Killens.

Author photo courtesy of Library of Congress.