Paule Marshall, an educator and acclaimed author, passed away on August 12, 2019, in Richmond, Virginia. She was 90 years old and had suffered from dementia.
Born Valenza Pauline Burke in Brooklyn, New York, Paule Marshall began her professional career as a magazine researcher, which allowed her to travel to Brazil, the West Indies, and various other destinations. She later went on to teach at both Virginia Commonwealth University and New York University. She received numerous honors throughout her career including the MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, as well as the Anisfield Wolf Book Award in 2002.
Most notably, Marshall was a talented writer who wrote about various topics including the racial divide between Black and White people, as well as the differences between American and Caribbean cultures. She broke out onto the writing scene in the 1950s with her autobiographical debut, Brown Girl, Brownstones. She went on to pen numerous novels, essays, and works of short fiction including Daughters, The Chosen Place, the Timeless People, and Praisesong for the Widow. Her works often featured women who had adventures and influence.
“Traditionally in most fiction men are the wheelers and dealers. They are the ones in whom power is invested,” Marshall wrote in Essence magazine in 1979. “I wanted to turn that around. I wanted women to be the centers of power. My feminism takes its expression through my work. Women are central for me. They can as easily embody the power principles as a man.”
Marshall was a Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate of Brooklyn College.