Thompson, Eloise Bibb (1878–1928)

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Thompson, Eloise Bibb (1878–1928)

African-American writer and journalist. Born Eloise Bibb on June 29, 1878, in New Orleans, Louisiana; died on January 8, 1928; daughter of Charles H. Bibb (a customs inspector) and Catherine Adele Bibb; graduated from Teachers College of Howard University, 1908; married Noah Thompson (a historian and journalist), on August 4, 1911.

Published Poems (1895); taught public school in Louisiana (1901–02); headed the Social Settlement at Howard University, Washington, D.C. (1908–11); wrote for the Los Angeles Tribune and Morning Sun; sold first work of drama, A Reply to Clansmen (1915); authored short fiction.

African-American teacher, writer, and religious activist Eloise Bibb Thompson grew up in Louisiana, the only child of a devoutly Catholic middle-class couple. Educated in New Orleans public schools and drawn to writing from an early age, with her parents' support Eloise Bibb published her first book of poetry before she was 18. She entered Oberlin College Preparatory Academy in 1899, returning to teach in New Orleans in 1901. However, the following year she left Louisiana again to attend Howard University's Teachers College in Washington, D.C., graduating six years later. She remained in Washington as director of Howard's Social Settlement program until 1911, when she became the second wife of the respected African-American Catholic journalist Noah Thompson. The couple settled in Los Angeles, California.

Both devout, progressive Catholics wanting to help black Americans advance socially, the Thompsons worked together as writers, teachers, and church volunteers. Eloise Thompson became a contributor to the Los Angeles Tribune and the Morning Sun, and also wrote poetry and fiction for Catholic journals such as The Tidings and Out West. Her fiction and her plays often concerned racial issues and sometimes caused considerable controversy. She wrote four plays, three of which were produced in Los Angeles with black casts for black audiences—Caught (1920), Africannus (1922), and Cooped Up (1924). She also wrote numerous short stories on racial themes, including the critically acclaimed "Mademoiselle 'Tasie—A Story," published in 1925, which examined the issue of "passing" among Creoles, a theme Thompson returned to in later works.

It was during her early years in Los Angeles that Thompson, along with her husband, came to articulate a belief that the best way black Americans could help themselves and their race was not through political acts but through joining the church and performing good works which would bring meaning and peace to their lives. The crucial importance she gave to the role of religious faith becomes increasingly evident in Thompson's later plays, stories, and poems. In 1928, Eloise Thompson died at age 49 in Los Angeles.


Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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Thompson, Eloise Bibb (1878–1928)

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