M. Carl Holman

M. Carl Holman Biography

Playwright, Academic, Poet, Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Editor (1919–1988)
M. Carl Holman was a noted 20th century poet, playwright and scholar, as well as the longtime head of the National Urban Coalition.


Born in Minter City, Mississippi, on June 27, 1919, M. Carl Holman earned two graduate degrees before teaching at Clark College, also working as a writer. He helped found The Atlanta Inquirer and later became head of the National Urban Coalition, focusing on educational and work opportunities for black and Latino communities among an array of civic service goals. He died in Washington, D.C., on August 9, 1988.

Background and Education

Moses Carl Holman was born in Minter City, Mississippi, on June 27, 1919, to Mamie Durham and Moses Holman. Going by the moniker M. Carl to distinguish himself from his dad, Holman grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and became an award-winning writer during his youth. He attended Lincoln University in Jefferson, graduating magna cum laude in 1942. He subsequently earned his master's degree in English from the University of Chicago and another graduate degree, this time in fine arts, from Yale University.

Professor and Editor

Holman taught at the Hampton Institute and his alma mater, Lincoln—both historically black schools—before becoming a professor at Clark College in 1948, a position that he would hold until the early '60s. In the summer of 1960, he became one of the co-founders of The Atlanta Inquirer, a weekly newspaper that was student-driven and presented topics for African-American communities, with a focus on the Civil Rights Movement. During the publication's beginnings, Holman served as editor and mentored journalists like Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Julian Bond.

Poet and Playwright

Holman also focused on his own writing during his teaching and editing years, scripting plays, poetry and fiction. His work would be read in anthologies like The Poetry of Black America: Anthology of the 20th Century (1973, Harper Collins); some of his richly detailed, evocative poems included "Notes for a Movie Script," "Picnic: The Liberated" and "Mr. Z," as well as the prize-winning stage work The Baptizin.

National Urban Coalition

In 1962, Holman joined the staff of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission as an information officer, later assisting the agency's staff director and becoming deputy director. In 1968, he became vice president of the National Urban Coalition, an organization meant to address racial strife and economic inequalities affecting the country. He became president of the coalition in 1971, and served in that position until his death.

As NUC head, Holman focused on coalitions with a variety of social activist organizations across the country and formed bridges between communities, looking to bring together African-American and Latino groups for example and stressing governmental and corporate liaisons. He also stressed the importance of preparing girls and children of color to succeed in mathematics and the sciences with talk of group-wide self-empowerment. Noted to be a thoughtful and generous tactician, Holman was part of the Black Leadership Forum as well.

M. Carl Holman died from cancer at the age of 69 on August 9, 1988, in Washington, D.C. He was survived by his wife, Mariella, and his children and grandchildren.

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