Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, on 13th October, 1902. Raised in California, Bontemps received his B.A. from Union Pacific College (1923) and his M.A. from the University of Chicago (1943).
Bontemps taught at Fisk University (1943-1965) and Yale University (1969-1972) and wrote a large number of books and plays. Bontemps was a successful novelist, poet, historian and biographer and much of his writing was dedicated to portraying the life of African Americans. Two of his novels, Black Thunder (1936) and Drums at Dusk (1939), dealt with slave revolts and led to accusations that he was encouraging African Americans to resort to violence.
Other books by Bontemps include God Sends Sunday (1931), You Can't Pet a Possum (1934), The Story of the Negro (1948), George Washington Carver (1950), Frederick Douglass: Slave, Fighter, Freeman (1959), 100 Years of Negro Freedom (1961), Famous Negro Athletes (1964) and The Harlem Renaissance Remembered (1972).
Arna Bontemps died in Nashville, Tennessee on 4th June, 1973.