Did You Know Author and Physician, Rudolph Fisher, Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: May 9th

Writer, orator and physician were just some of the titles held by Harlem Renaissance contributor, Rudolph Fisher. Fisher has had his work published in places such as Story Magazine, Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic) and the NAACP’s The Crisis Magazine

He was born on May 9, 1897, in Washington, D.C. His father was a reverend who often moved the family around. However, the family eventually settled in Providence, Rhode Island and Fisher spent most of his developmental years in the Northeast. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Brown University. His time at Brown also prepared him to be a skilled orator.

Fisher decided to attend Howard University‘s School of Medicine and graduated summa cum laude in 1924. He was also able to study at Columbia University where he was awarded a fellowship to study how viruses reacted to ultraviolet rays. This time also allowed him to explore the cultural transformations taking place in Harlem, New York and acquire more writing experience.

Despite finding success in the medical field, Fisher had an interest in writing and his pieces were published in a variety of Black papers. His first short story, “City of Refuge,” was published by the Atlantic Monthly in 1925. The piece detailed the multifaceted experience for people of color migrating into the city. Fisher became an early mainstream Harlem Renaissance writer. 

While studying at Columbia, Fisher also gained opportunities to work at different hospitals in New York as a radiology specialist. He was even promoted to superintendent of International Hospital. Fisher even began his own private practice in Harlem, making him part of a small group of Black physicians to practice or teach radiology. 

He made time for both careers and released his first novel, The Walls of Jericho in 1928. Fisher distinguished himself in the literary world when he released his second novel, The Conjure Man Dies, in 1932. It is considered to be one of the first known crime novels written by an African American. 

Fisher died on December 26, 1934, in New York, New York. His goal of turning The Conjure Man Dies into a play was later fulfilled by fellow Harlem Renaissance contributors, Countee Cullen and Arna Bontemps. The two revised the manuscript and showcased the production at the Lafayette Theater and the Federal Theatre Project in 1936.  

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