Lorene Cary’s novel, If Sons, Then Heirs (Atria Books, April 2011), recounts a love story for our time while exploring a searing racial history that haunts—and impoverishes—its unforgettable characters. Publishers Weekly calls it: “an absorbing and moving tale.” Cary’s other books include: the best-selling memoir Black Ice, an American Library Association Notable Book for 1991 often taught in colleges and high schools; The Price of a Child, a 1995 novel chosen as the first One Book, One Philadelphia selection; Pride, a contemporary novel, and FREE! Great Escapes on the Underground Railroad, a collection of true-life stories for young readers. Cary’s essays have appeared in publications including Newsweek, Time, Essence, and O Magazine.
The President’s House memorial on Independence Mall in Philadelphia includes five videos, shot from Cary’s original scripts, depicting the lives of nine enslaved Africans in the household of President George Washington as well as the free black men and women who helped two of them run to freedom.
Cary founded Art Sanctuary in 1998 to create unique programs of excellent African-American arts and letters in urbanPhiladelphia that have involved up to 15,00 participants a year. In 2012, she stepped down as director, passing the baton to new leadership.
She served on Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission from October 2011 to January 2013. Her special focus on students’ safety led her to form a Safety Committee that helped to revise the Student Code of Conduct to eliminate Zero Tolerance regulations. The Committee also sponsored a three-day Safety Summit for principals and featured Dr. Sandra Bloom on children (and staff) and trauma.
For arts activism, for her writing, and for her teaching as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Cary received in 2003 the Philadelphia Award, her city’s highest honor, The Philadelphia Award, in 2003. She lectures nationwide and has received six honorary doctorates, the most recent from Swarthmore College in 2013.
Lorene Cary is married to the Rev. Robert C. Smith; they live in Philadelphia.