Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Great Americans A to Z: Kristin Hunter Lattany

K is for Kristin Hunter Lattany, (1931-2008) an award-winning American writer and teacher.

Kristin began her writing career at the age of 14, working for a weekly newspaper titled The Pittsburgh Courier. She wrote about encounters between people of different races and genders. Kristin also learned how to channel her anger at racism in her writing.

Kristin earned her bachelor’s degree in education and went through many jobs: she has been a third grade schoolteacher, copywriter, public information officer, and television scriptwriter. In 1955, she won a national television contest for her script Minority of One, a documentary about a black student entering an all-white school. To prevent controversy, the network rewrote her script to feature a French-speaking immigrant student entering an all-white school.

Kristin also became a novelist and college lecturer. She taught creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania and Emory University. Her works include seven adult novels and four children’s books. Many of her novels were based on her real life experiences.

For instance, Kristin’s novel Breaking Away (2003) was about a college teacher and her students facing racial discrimination. In real life, Kristin experienced such things as students insulting her to her face, and finding Aunt Jemima pancake mix boxes near her office. The University of Pennsylvania’s 1993 water buffalo incident (where one student was charged with racial harassment toward a group of black students) occurred while she taught there.

Kristin’s novel The Lakestown Rebellion (1978) was about a black town facing closure due to new plans to put a highway in its place. In real life, Kristin was involved in protests against the construction of the Crosstown Expressway in Philadelphia that would destroy homes and businesses in predominately black neighborhoods.


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