Samuel Washington Allen (aka Paul Vesey), Class of 1938

samuel Allen(December 9,1917- June 27,2015) The noted poet, professor, lawyer and translator passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends at the age of 97 on June 27, 2015 in Norwood, Mass.

Samuel Allen’s collections of poetry consist of the bilingual Elfenbeinzahne (Heidelberg, 1956); Ivory Tusks (New York, 1968); Paul Vesey’s Ledger (London, 1975) and Every Round (Detroit, 1987). He translated Sartre’s “Orphee noir” essay in 1951 while in Paris and was the editor and one of the translators of Poems from Africa (Crowell, 1973).

Samuel Allen was born at Columbus, Ohio on December 9, 1917. His father was a clergyman. While majoring in sociology at Nashville’s Fisk University, Allen studied writing with Harlem Renaissance poet, novelist and critic James Weldon Johnson. He graduated with high honors in 1938.

Allen then attended Harvard Law School where he earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1941 – later becoming deputy assistant in the New York district attorney’s office.

Allen then relocated to Paris on a GI Bill to study at the Sorbonne. There, he joined other African American ex-patriots – including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Wright introduced Allen into the Presence Africaine circle – where his first published poems appeared in 1949.

After returning to the United States, Samuel Allen served as an attorney with the federal government in Washington under the administrations of presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He was Deputy Assistant District Attorney in New York City from 1946 to 1947, a civilian attorney with the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe (1951-1955), and in private practice in New York from 1956 to 1958. He taught law at Texas Southern University from 1958 to 1960. In 1961, he was appointed to the position of assistant general counsel of the U.S. Information Agency and served in that position until 1964. He was then named chief counsel of the Community Relations Service in Washington, D.C., a position he occupied from 1965 to 1968.

In 1968, Allen committed himself fully to literature – teaching at Tuskegee Institute, Wesleyan and Boston University. He gave readings throughout the United States – including before the Library of Congress. He was named Avalon Professor of Humanities at the Tuskegee Institute, where he taught for two years. In 1971 he became a professor of English at Boston University where he taught until he retired in 1981. Allen also taught at Wesleyan University (1970-71) and was writer-in-residence at Tuskegee and at Rutgers University. He received numerous fellowships, residencies and lifetime achievement awards. On April 2, 2010 Samuel Washington Allen was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University.

Allen's poems were first published by Richard Wright in the journal, Présence Africaine, and his poetry is today found in many anthologies. He sometimes writes under the name Paul Vesey. Allen is also a reviewer, translator, editor and lecturer. His translations include the following: Jean- Paul Sartre's Orphee Noir and Leopold Senghor's Anthologie de la Nouvelle Poesie Negre.

“While many African-American writers have sought to incorporate African elements into their works, few have realized that goal as elegantly and powerfully as Samuel W. Allen,” stated James Manheim in Contemporary Black Biography, 2003.

A public memorial celebration will be held Saturday, October 10, at 2 p.m. ET. at the Museum of African American History, 46 Joy Street, Beacon Hill, Boston, MA to celebrate the life and legacy of Samuel Washington Allen – who also wrote under the pen name of Paul Vesey. A legacy giving opportunity will be announced at the memorial to benefit Fisk University.

The memorial celebration will feature contributions from family members as well as fellow board member and Museum of African American History Executive Director Beverly Morgan-Welch; Whirlwind Magazine publisher, poet and protege Lamont Steptoe; Boston University Professor of African Studies Laurence Breiner, PhD and Langston Hughes Award recipient Everett Hoagland.

Attendees are encouraged to RSVP by email – – or phone / text – (617) 294-9889

Fisk University, in its educational programs and activities involving students and employees, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or age. Furthermore, the university does not discriminate against veterans or individuals with disabilities.