E. Ethelbert Miller, Eugene Ethelbert Miller

Eugene Ethelbert Miller (1950– ), better known as E. Ethelbert Miller, is well known for his work as a poet, an author. an academic administrator, and a literary activist. Also known by his friends as “Uncle Bert” and “Br’erBert,” he was named for a cousin whose name, it is believed, was selected by Ethelbert’s great aunt, a woman very close to his mother. (Later in his life, he learned the story of Ethelbert, king, martyr, and patron saint of Hereford Cathedral in England, who was beheaded at the command of Queen Cynetrith who feared the throne of her husband, King Offa, might be threatened by Ethelbert’s romantic interest in their daughter Altrida.)

Born in the Bronx, New York, Ethelbert made Washington, D.C., his home after graduating from Howard University. Over the years, that city has embraced him—proclaiming September 28th as "E. Ethelbert Miller Day" (1979), awarding him the Mayor's Arts Award for Literature (1982), bestowing the Public Humanities Award from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC (1988), awarding him the Columbia Merit Award (1994), inducting him into the Washington DC Hall of Fame Society (2015), and awarding him the Mayor's Arts Award for Distinguished Honor (2016). He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Emory & Henry College (1996) in 2007 and was awarded several fellowships—a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship (2007), a Sea Change Fellowship by the Gaea Foundation (2009), and a Fulbright Senior Specialist Program Fellow to Israel (2004 and 2012).

Ethelbert's knowledge and influence have been at work in many places and in many ways—as board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies; director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University; chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, DC; a teacher at American University, Bennington College, Emory and Henry College, George Mason University, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas; a voice on National Public Radio; editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry magazine published in the country; Commissioner for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities; board emeritus for the PEN/ Faulkner Foundation. He has written several collections of poetry and two memoirs: Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer (2000) and The 5th Inning (2009). His poetry often reflects his roots in Barbados, and his autobiographical poem “Panama” tells experiences of his father who was born in Panama during the period when many West Indians worked on the canal.

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