Clarissa Scott Delany

1901 –

Clarissa Scott Delany was born Clarissa Mae Scott in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was the daughter of Emmet Jay Scott, secretary to Booker T. Washington and special advisor on African American affairs to President Woodrow Wilson, and Elenor Baker Scott. She attended Bradford Academy in Massachusetts and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College in 1923. This accomplishment landed her a cover article in The Crisis magazine in June 1923.

Delany gathered frequently with other young Black people in Boston at the Literary Guild. Claude McKay was among the institution’s featured speakers. She traveled to France and Germany and later published the essay “A Golden Afternoon in Germany,” inspired by this period, in Opportunity magazine. Delany then moved to Washington, D.C., and taught at Dunbar High School until 1926. While there, she joined the Saturday Nighters Club, a salon hosted by Georgia Douglas Johnson.

Delany entered her poem “Solace” in a contest hosted by Opportunity. She tied for fourth place, and the poem was eventually anthologized, alongside her other poems, “Joy” and “The Mask,” in Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Black Poets of the Twenties (Harper & Brothers, 1927). Some of her other poems were also anthologized in Arna Bontemps’s and Langston Hughes’s The Poetry of the Negro, 1746–1949 (Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1949). 

Delany later moved to New York City, where she became a social worker and the director of the Joint Committee on the Negro Child Study. She published findings on delinquency and child neglect among Black children. She died at twenty-six of kidney disease.