In 1922 Bonner graduated from Radcliffe and began teaching at Bluefield Colored Institute (now Bluefield State University) in Bluefield, West Virginia. Two years later, in 1924, she abandoned the isolation of southern West Virginia to take a teaching position at all-black Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C. When both parents died within a year of her relocation to Washington, Bonner turned to writing to address her grief. Her first essay, "Being Young-A Woman- And Colored" was published in December of 1925 by The Crisis magazine. The essay addressed the discrimination that African Americans and in particular black women faced at the time. The essay called on young black women to rely on their strength and resilience in dealing with these situations.
Soon after her initial success Bonner was drawn into a circle of Washington, D.C. writers, poets, playwrights, and composers who met regularly at composer Georgia Douglass Johnson's "S" street salon. With their encouragement, Bonner for the next five years wrote a series of short stories which appeared in Crisis and in Opportunity, the magazine for the National Urban League. During this time she met her future husband William Almy Occomy. The couple married in 1930 and the following year moved to Chicago where Bonner over the next decade enjoyed her greatest success as a short story writer. Most of her stories in the Chicago period centered around a fictitious Frye Street and Environs which included a multiracial and multicultural universe of people drawn to Chicago by the promise of urban life. As with her earlier work these writings emphasized self-improvement through education.
In 1941 Bonner abandoned writing to care for her family which now included three children. She returned to teaching and remained in Chicago's public school system until her retirement in 1963. Eight years later in 1971 Bonner died on December 7, 1971 of complications from smoke inhalation after her Chicago apartment caught fire.
Joyce Flynn and Joyce O. Stricklin, eds., Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women, Book II (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc, 1996) http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/bonner_marita_odette.html
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