Brent Staples

Brent Staples (born 1951 in Chester, Pennsylvania) is an author and an editorial writer for The New York Times.[1] His books include An American Love Story[2] and Parallel Time: Growing up In Black and White,[3] He writes about political, social and cultural issues, including race[4] (his 1986 essay in Ms. Magazine "Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space" is deemed canonical[5]) and the state of the American school system.[6][7]

He is a graduate of Widener University (B.A.) and the University of Chicago (Ph.D). His essay "How Hip Hop Lost Its Way and Betrayed Its Fans" was included in Read, Reason, and Write book, edited by Dorothy U. Seyler. His memoir Parallel Time was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.[8] He won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.[9]

Early years and educationEdit

Before Staples was born, his parents moved from rural Virginia to Chester, Pennsylvania, as part of the Great Migration of people of color in America to industrial cities in the North and Midwest. Chester was then a prosperous small city with a huge shipbuilding industry. The oldest son of nine children, Staples was born in 1951. His family had no money for tuition, his grades were average, and he had taken only a few high-level academic courses in high school, so the expectation was that he would go straight to work. However, he was admitted to Widener University, where he graduated in 1973. Staples then undertook graduate study in psychology at the University of Chicago,[10] earning a master's degree in Behavioral Sciences (as the department was known at that time) in 1976, and a PhD in the same field in 1982.[11]

Years later, his younger brother, a cocaine dealer, was murdered by a rival, caused Staples to reconsider his childhood.[12]


Staples joined the staff of The New York Times as an editor of the Book Review in 1985, and subsequently became assistant metropolitan editor.[13] In 1990 he was appointed to the newspaper's editorial board.[13]

In a 1994 interview with Paul Galloway of the Chicago Tribune,[14] Staples reflected: "Being black enriches my experience; it doesn't define me .... I'm writing about universal themes – family and leaving home and developing your own identity – which all Americans can enjoy and understand." As a writer, he has worked to correct the myth that the American "black experience" is defined only by poverty, violence, and crime.[10] In the same interview, he stated: "I despise the expression ['black experience']. There is no such thing. Black people's lives in this country are too varied to be reduced to a single term."[10]


  1. ^ "Brent Staples". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  2. ^ Staples, Brent; Penelope Falk; Jennifer Fox (1999). An American Love Story. Random House. ISBN 0375502998.
  3. ^ Staples, Brent (1995). Parallel Time: Growing Up in Black and White. HarperCollins. pp. 288. ISBN 0380724758.
  4. ^ Brent Staples (2005-10-31). "Why Race Isn't as 'Black' and 'White' as We Think". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  5. ^ Grønstad, Asbjørn; Vågnes, Øyvind (2010). Coverscaping: Discovering Album Aesthetics. Museum Tusculanum Press. p. 130. ISBN 9788763507745. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  6. ^ Editorials/Op-Ed (2005-11-25). "Are Japan's Schools Really Better?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  7. ^ Staples, Brent (2017-04-20). "Where Did All the Black Teachers ago?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  8. ^ "The New York Times Editorial Board: Brent Staples – Education, Criminal Justice, Economics". The New York Times. 2016-05-02. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  9. ^ "2019 Pulitzer Prizes Journalism: Editorial Writing - Brent Staples of The New York Times". 2019-04-16. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  10. ^ a b c "Brent Staples." Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 8. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 1994. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, 2017-04-21.
  11. ^ Chung, Jeanie (Fall 2015/Winter 2016). "Knowledge through the decades: Alumni from the past 50 years recall their experiences in the Division of the Social Sciences". The University of Chicago Magazine: Dialogo (alumini publication for the division of Social Sciences). Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  12. ^ Staples, Brent. "About Men; A Brother's Murder". The New York Times Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  13. ^ a b "Brent Staples Is Appointed to Times's Editorial Board". The New York Times. 1990-06-07. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  14. ^ "Brent (A.) Staples." Contemporary Authors Online. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2005. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, 2017-04-21. Also available online via