C. Eric Lincoln was born in Athens, Ala., where he was raised by his grandparents. He graduated from Trinity School, a private high school for blacks run by Protestant missionaries. After graduation, Lincoln moved to the Chicago area where he took night classes at the University of Chicago. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1945. After his discharge, Lincoln enrolled in LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen College) in Memphis, Tenn., and graduated in 1947 with an AB in sociology and philosophy. He had several jobs after graduation including a brief time as one of the managers for the Birmingham Black Barons baseball team. In 1954, Lincoln graduated with an MA in philosophy from Fisk University in Nashville. He earned his BD from the University of Chicago Divinity School and was ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church. He also earned an MEd and a PhD in social ethics from Boston University in 1960. His doctoral dissertation was published in 1961 as The Black Muslims in America.
During his academic career, Lincoln was on the faculties of Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), Portland State College (now Portland University), Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Fisk University, and Duke University in Durham, N.C., from which he retired in 1993. In his last two years at Duke, Lincoln was the William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture. Most of Lincoln’s published books were scholarly in nature and on subjects related to religion and the black community. In 1988, however, he published a novel that he had been working on for over thirty years, The Avenue: Clayton City. A collection of his poems, This Road Since Freedom, was published in 1990. The following year, a fire destroyed his home in Durham, N.C., destroying his personal library and the journals he had been keeping for more than fifty years. He was in poor health in his final years, suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Lincoln’s last book, Coming Through the Fire, published in 1996, was a collection of essays about race in American culture.
C. Eric Lincoln’s novel, The Avenue: Clayton City, is a portrait of small town Southern life between the two World Wars. It is set in a fictional version of Athens. Lincoln also published poetry and nonfiction about the black experience in America.
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Photo courtesy of the C. Eric Lincoln Collection, Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center.
Last updated on Jun 03, 2008.