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The Legacies They Built: Honoring Pinkie Gordon Lane, Lutrill & Pearl Payne, and Julian T. White.”: Pinkie Gordon Lane

In 2022, the LSU Board of Supervisors made the decision to honor four African American trailblazers by naming two academic programs and one building after them.

Pinkie Gordon Lane Papers

Note: All images in this section come from the Pinkie Gordon Lane Papers, Mss. 4629, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU, Baton Rouge, LA.


WomanPinkie Gordon Lane was born in Philadelphia, PA, on January 13, 1923. She attended the Philadelphia School for Girls, graduating in 1940. Lane left her job at a sewing factory in 1945 to enter Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where in 1949 she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and art. After graduating she began teaching in the public schools of Georgia and Florida (1949-1955). It was during her senior year at Spelman that she met and married Ulysses Simpson Lane (d. 1970) in May 1948.  
In 1955 she returned to Atlanta and began working on a master’s degree in English from Atlanta University. Upon receiving her degree in 1956, she and her husband left Georgia and moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she took a teaching position at Leland College in Baker, La. from 1957-1959. (Leland College closed in 1960). She left Leland to accept a position as instructor of English at Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.). In 1963 she gave birth to her only child, a son, Gordon Edward Lane. In 1967, Lane became the first African American woman to receive the PhD degree from LSU. She was promoted to full professor and served as Director of the English department from 1974 until her retirement in 1986.  

Lane’s literary career began in 1956 when she found some success as a short story writer. She decided upon poetry as her chosen medium and her first published poem, “This Treasured Book,” appeared in Phylon: The Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture in 1961. In addition to her numerous publications in periodicals, she published five books of poetry: Wind Thoughts (1972), Mystic Female (1978), I Never Scream: New and Selected Poems (1985), Girl at the Window (1991), and Elegy for Etheridge (2000). She served as editor or contributing editor to anthologies and periodicals such as Poems by Blacks (1973), Discourses on Poetry (1972), Callaloo, and Black Scholar.  

Three womenLane traveled globally, participating in numerous workshops, seminars, and poetry readings throughout the United States, Africa, the Virgin Islands, and Haiti. She has held positions as director of the Melvin A. Butler Poetry Festival, 1974-80; Louisiana State Poet Laureate, 1989- 1992; Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame inductee, 1991; Visiting Distinguished Professor at the University of Northern Iowa, 1993-94; and Du Pont Scholar, Bridgewater College, 1994.  

Lane passed away on December 3, 2008 after a brief illness. 


Images from the Pinkie Gordon Lane Papers, Mss.:, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU. Top: Pinkie Gordon Lane, c. 1985; Center: Professors from Southern University at the Womanfair Conference, University of Texas, October 17-18, 1980 -Noted on the back: “Seated left to right: Professors Ruby J. Simms-Brown (History Dept.), Pinkie Gordon Lane, San Su Lin, Mary Joseph, and Margaret Ambrose (English Dept.).” Lane was serving as English Department Chair when this photograph was taken; Bottom: Val Gray Ward, Lane, and Gwendolyn Brooks at “Furious Flower” conference, 1994.

Biography from Pinkie Gordon Lane Papers finding aid, by librarian Rose Tarbell. 

Dissertation & Inspiration

Lane, Pinkie Gordon. Metaphorical Imagery in the Prose Works of Sir Thomas Browne. LSU Dissertation, 1967. 
378.76 L930D 1967 LANE 

Lane’s dissertation was significant for a number of reasons. Browne influenced Lane’s use of metaphorical imagery in her own poetry. The work established her as a serious researcher and scholar. During her graduate studies, she broke down barriers for women of color pursuing the highest level of graduate education at LSU and established a lifelong professional relationship with advisor LSU English Professor John Hazard Wildman. Completing the PhD program launched Lane’s professional career as an academic administrator and a poet. 

documents and book in exhibition case

Lane was inspired to become a poet upon reading A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks. LSU Libraries holds copies of the book in both the Main Library and the Wyatt Houston Day Collection of African American Poetry.



The Right to Be a Person

logo: "the right to be a person"

Lane used this logo and phrase on her personal stationery for many years.

Poetry by Pinkie Gordon Lane

Girl at the Window

Mystic Female

A Quiet Poem

This will be a quiet poem.
Black people don’t write
many quiet poems
because what we feel
is not a quiet hurt.
And a not-quiet hurt
does not call
for muted tones.
But I will write a poem
about this evening
full of the sounds
of small animals, some fluttering
in thick leaves, a smear
of color here and there —
about the whisper of darkness
a gray wilderness of light
descending, touching
I will write a quiet poem
immersed in shadows
and mauve colors
and spots of white
fading into deep tones
of blue.
This is a quiet evening
full of hushed singing
and light that has no
ends, no breaking
of the planes, or brambles
thrusting out.

Black Arts Movement

The Black Arts Movement (1965-1975) 

book cover
Pinkie Gordon Lane established working relationships and friendships with many well-known poets who are associated with the Black Arts Movement. 
Associated with the politically-driven Black Power Movement, the Black Arts Movement emerged after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965. Veteran, poet, and professor Imamu Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) established the Black Arts Repertory Theatre and School in Harlem, and is considered the father of the movement. 

Recent works on the movement can be accessed online via LSU Libraries: 

Smethurst, James Edward. The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. 

Bracey Jr., John H., Sonia Sanchez, and James Smethurst. SOS/Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2014. 

Smethurst, James. Behold the Land: The Black Arts Movement in the South [electronic resource]. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, [2021]. 

Poets, writers, playwrights, musicians, and artists joined together to create a new aesthetic founded in black history and culture. The movement spread across the country, and many poets and writers became household names across ethnic and social groups.

Image: We a BaddDDD People by Sonia Sanchez, Wyatt Houston Day Collection of African American Poetry

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