‘Daddy Was A Number Runner’ Author Louise Meriwether Dies At 100
Activist and author Louise Meriwether has died at 100 years old.
On Tuesday, filmmaker Cheryl Hill revealed that Meriwether’s death was due to natural causes attributed to age, as reported by the Associated Press. Hill, an extended family member of the late activist, shared that Meriwether passed away in Manhattan’s Amsterdam Nursing Home.
The journalist, who was widely known for her 1970 debut novel, Daddy Was a Number Runner, was committed to telling the stories of Black people. The novel details a personal story about life in Harlem, a poor Black community during the 1930s. The story follows 12-year-old Francie Coffin, whose “daddy” becomes a number runner as he tries to find work.
An overview from Barnes & Noble describes the book as a modern classic and “a tough, tender, bitter novel of a Black girl struggling towards womanhood.” A line from the book reads, “We was all poor and Black and apt to stay that way, and that was that.”
The Associated Press reported that hundreds of thousands of copies of Meriwether’s novel, which depicted race, gender, and class during that era in America, were sold. The author was a major contributor to the enlightenment of Black women in literature. In a book review for The New York Times, the influential Black novelist Paule Marshall described Meriwether’s work as “a most important novel.” James Baldwin wrote its foreword.
The New York University graduate majored in English before receiving her master’s degree in journalism from UCLA in her 40s, The Associated Press noted. Meriwether wrote for major publications, including the Los Angeles Times. The notable essayist shared her knowledge as a creative writing teacher with students at Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Houston.
Her position as a story analyst with Universal Studios marked her as one of the few Black women working in Hollywood at the time. Meriwether returned to her childhood grounds in New York and became part of the Harlem Writers Guild.
The journalist was divorced twice, once from Angelo Meriwether and then from Earle Howe. Pushing through tough times landed the novelist prestigious recognitions and honors. In 2016, she was awarded for her literature with a lifetime achievement granted by the Before Columbus Foundation. A Louise Meriwether First Book Prize for “debut women/nonbinary writers of color” was launched by the Feminist Press and TAYO Literary Magazine.