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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 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; later published the essay “A Golden Afternoon in Germany,” inspired from this period, in Opportunity magazine. She then moved to Washington, DC; taught at Dunbar High School until 1926. Delany later joined the Saturday Nighters Club, hosted by Georgia Douglas Johnson; and entered her poem “Solace” in a contest hosted by Opportunity; tied for fourth place; and the poem was anthologized, along with “Joy” and “The Mask,” in Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk (1927).
Other poems were later anthologized in Arna Bontemps’s and Langston Hughes’s The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949.
Delany married attorney and civil rights activist, Hubert Delany; moved to New York City; and became a social worker and director of the Joint Committee on the Negro Child Study; published findings on delinquency and child neglect among black children. She died at 26 of kidney disease.