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Toni Cade Bambara; Award-Winning Writer, Filmmaker

December 15, 1995| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

WALLINGFORD, Pa. — Toni Cade Bambara, a writer and filmmaker who raised her eloquent voice to tell the tale of black oppression, has died after a two-year battle with colon cancer. She was 56.

Bambara, who died Saturday in a hospice, wrote about ordinary blacks in a down-home dialect that connected characters to the reader. Most of her books featured a witty narrator who told the tale with humor and insight.

She won the American Book Award for her 1980 novel "The Salt Eaters." A review in The Times praised Bambara's "considerable literary gifts."

Her books also included another novel, "If Blessing Comes," and two collections of short stories, "Gorilla, My Love" and "The Sea Birds Are Still Alive."

Her film work includes a 1986 documentary about the deadly police bombing of the radical group MOVE and the recently completed "W.E.B. DuBois--A Biography in Four Voices."

Eleanor Traylor, chairwoman of the English department at Howard University in Washington, called Bambara "one of the most fertile and avant-garde of contemporary writers."

"Her allusions are ancient, drawn from the entire ancient world--Greece, Africa, Asia and from the Native American and African American heritage."

Born Miltona Mirkin Cade, she announced when she was 5 that she was changing her first name to Toni. She legally adopted the name Bambara in 1970.

She was educated at Queens College, the University of Florence, City University of New York, New York University and New School for Social Research.

Bambara was a social worker in New York before she began teaching English at City University of New York and later at Rutgers University. Most recently, she taught screenwriting at the Scribe Video Center.

Survivors include a daughter, Karma; her mother, Helen Brehon, and a brother, Walter Cade III.

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