Rudolph Lewis (born 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland) was raised by his grandparents William and Ella Lewis of Jarratt, Virginia—in the Village of Jerusalem. He attended Creath, No. 5 and later graduated from Central High (Sussex). In 1965. He left Jarratt 1965 to attend Morgan State College (Baltimore). After hearing Stokely Carmichael, Walter Lively, and Bob Moore speak on black responsibility in Fall 1967, he left Morgan State “to join the Revolution” by working closely with Bob Moore and Walter Lively from 1968 to about 1972.
He spent several years as an organizer for Local 1199, married in 1972 Evelyn Duncan, which was of a short duration (divorced 1976). Resigning from 1199 in 1974, he worked a number of temporary jobs, including that of a porter and pot-washer at Maryland General Hospital.
Under the encouragement and guidance of Dr. Max Wilson, he registered for Morgan State University’s University Without Walls and then the University of Maryland (College Park), from which he graduated with a B.A (1978) and M.A. (1981) degrees in English. After graduation, he taught writing and literature on an adjunct basis at University of the District of Columbia and the University of Maryland. In 1982, he spent ten weeks with the Peace Corps in Zaire.
Returning to College Park, he was encouraged by Drs. Lewis Lawson and Donna Hamilton to take a teaching position in Louisiana. He taught for a year a Northeast Louisiana University (NLU, 1983) and then the University of New Orleans (UNO, 1984-1986). At a presentation at UNO, Lewis made the acquaintance of Lee Meitzen Grue and Yusef Komunyakaa. Yusef and Rudy became fast friends, with Yusef serving as a mentor in the writing of poetry. Komunyakaa and Lewis, along with Ahmose Zu-Bolton, created and built the cultural center Copacetic on Piety Street, which lasted tragically only six months.
Under Yusef’s encouragement, Lewis joined in 1984 the New Orleans Poetry Forum, headed by Lee Grue. In this milieu he gained many valuable friends and experiences. Gaining some poetic skills, Lewis wrote poems that were published by The New Laurel Review (NLR), edited by Lee Meitzen Grue. He also began his own rag, Crickets: Poems & Other Jazz, which lasted several issues. As editor of Cricket, Lewis published poems of some of his UNO colleagues, Yusef, and of the late Marcus Bruce Christian. As a contributing editor of the NLR, Lewis accepted several writing assignments, including pieces on the socially-conscious Jessie Covington Dent and the poet Yvegeny Yevtushenko.
After leaving UNO, Lewis spent a year in an English doctoral program at Louisiana State University. He returned to his Village of Jerusalem for six months (the longest extent since leaving in 1965) continuing to write and research. During this period he wrote and corresponded with friends in Louisiana and Baltimore. In 1987, he returned to Baltimore and worked a couple of years for Local 1199 as editor and organizer.
From 1991-1997, Lewis taught writing and other subjects in several adult education programs. During this period he spent a year in Morgan State’s doctoral program in education (1991-1992), and completed from 1994-1997 a masters program in library science. From 1997-1999, he worked as a librarian for Enoch Pratt Free Library. After the publication of his edited volume of I Am New Orleans & Other Poems By Marcus Bruce Christian, Lewis again returned to the Village of Jerusalem where he collected the letters and stories of his grandmother Ella Lewis.
During this sojourn in Jerusalem, Lewis also continued his research on the region, including the development of Negro schools in Sussex and the history of the Nathaniel Turner Rebellion. After six months, he again returned to Baltimore and began work as a part-time librarian at St. Mary’s Seminary, where he continues to work. In November 2001, along with Kinya Kionygozi, he founded the website ChickenBones: A Journal, which he continues to edit and which has become one of the most popular African-American websites on the internet, enjoying over a half-million visitors in 2003.
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