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An author and lifelong educator, Arthenia Bates Millican has been described during her career as a writer, poet, professor, researcher, humanitarian and "humanist of rural Southern folk." She has received worldwide recognition for her work. Much of Millican's substantial literary reputation is based on "Seeds Beneath the Snow: Vignettes from the South."
Her work has been compared to that of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston and Thomas Hardy. Born in Sumter in 1920, Millican is a graduate of Lincoln High School. She finished Morris College in 1941, received a master's degree from Atlanta University in 1948, and her doctorates from Louisiana State University in 1972, writing a dissertation on James Weldon Johnson titled "In Quest of an AfroCentric Tradition for Black American Literature."
Millican began her career as a teacher and department head in South Carolina and Virginia public schools. She studied poetry with Langston Hughes, and her own work has been published in the "Oxford Companion to African-American Literature," Essence, the Negro Digest, the "College Language Association Journal" and many other publications. In 1970, The Washington Post praised Millican's "primitive themes," and in 1973, CLA Journal cited her for her unusual ability as a "local colorist." Local readers of her novels will find many references to familiar locales. She has also published numerous collections of essays, short fiction and poetry.
Her work has been described as "words that continue to move and engage us today, a quarter- to a half-century after she first shared her visions with us." Millican has received numerous honors throughout her long career, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Morris College and Who's Who in America. In addition, her work is included in both the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters in the Beinecke Library at Yale University and the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina.
Rick Jones, a nephew of Millican and the director of the Arthenia J. Bates Millican (AJBM) Literary Foundation, which hosts the AJBM Literary Festival in Sumter each year, noted that "One of the program's key goals is to utilize Millican's literary work to help the parents, students and members of the community reclaim their pride in the creative imaginings of South Carolina. The read-out-loud program will assist in developing higher order thinking skills, while engaging the audience - youth and adults - in understanding the unique components of their heritage."