I was born on January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1941-1954 I lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and from 1954-1961 in Nashville, Tennesse. I received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.
In 1961 I moved to New York City where I had a talk radio show on WBAI FM from 1966-1973, hosted a television talk show on WNET from 1969-1971.
Since 1968 I have published 43 books. Among the awards these books have received are the Newberry Honor Medal, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, National Book Award Finalist, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, Coretta Scott King Award. Numerous titles have also appeared on the New York Times Outstanding Book list and American Library Association Notable Book list.
I've also published over 200 hundred essays and reviews in such publications as the New York Times Booko Review, New York Times Op-Ed Page, Boston Globe, Village Voice, The New Republic, Forward, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review.
I've recorded two albums of original songs, which are available on iTunes. During the civil rights movement I was a photographer and my photographs from that time were included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent collection at Howard University. I've also had photographs in group shows at Pivot Media, Florence, Mass., Valley Photographers, Springfield, Mass., State House, Boston, Mass., as well as solo shows at the University of Massachusetts, Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass., & Valley Photo Center.
After teaching for two years at the New School for Social Research in New York (1968-70), I joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in 1971 where I was a professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department, and adjunct professor of History.
I have been honored with all three of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award, the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship, and the Chancellor's Medal, the university's highest honor. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected me as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year in 1988. I retired from the university at the end of 2003. For ten years I served as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
I have five children - 2 male, 3 female - who range in age from 28 to 43. I live with my wife and two cats on a secluded twelve acres in a small town in western Massachusetts.