George Leonard Allen

1905 –

George Leonard Allen was born in Lumberton, North Carolina, on September 10, 1905. He was one of nine children. His father, David P. Allen, taught at Lumberton Normal School (later, Whitin Normal School), a secondary school for African American students. One of his pupils included U.S. Representative George Henry White. The elder Allen also managed the school, which remained open until his death. George Allen attended Redstone Academy in Lumberton, where he developed a love of literature, particularly poetry. Allen attended college at Johnson C. Smith University, a private and historically-Black university in Charlotte, North Carolina. During this time, he also developed as a pianist. He graduated in 1926 as his class valedictorian.

Allen initially published literary work in school and local publications. While teaching at Kendall Institute in Sumter, South Carolina, one of the first schools for African Americans founded in the town, he published literature in numerous other periodicals, including Opportunity magazine. In 1927, the North Carolina branch of the United Daughters of the Confederacy awarded Allen’s poem “To Melody” the prize for best sonnet in a statewide competition.