Oliver La Farge

Franklin Library Oliver La Farge books

Laughing Boy - Library of Pulitzer Prize Classics - 1977

Oliver La Farge biography

Oliver Hazard Perry La Farge, born on December 19, 1901, in New York City, was an American anthropologist, writer, and activist whose work focused on the cultures and rights of Indigenous peoples. Throughout his life, La Farge dedicated himself to documenting and preserving Native American cultures, advocating for their rights, and challenging prevailing stereotypes and prejudices. La Farge was born into a prominent family with a long history of involvement in American politics and culture. His father, Christopher La Farge, was an architect, while his mother, Bertha Brooke, was a poet and artist. From an early age, La Farge was exposed to a wide range of intellectual and artistic pursuits, which would shape his later interests and career path. After graduating from Harvard University in 1924, La Farge embarked on a career as a writer and anthropologist, focusing primarily on the cultures of Native American tribes in the southwestern United States. His experiences living among Indigenous communities and studying their customs, languages, and traditions deeply influenced his worldview and his understanding of cultural diversity.

In 1929, La Farge published his first novel, Laughing Boy, which drew upon his experiences among the Navajo people of New Mexico. The novel, which tells the story of a young Navajo man torn between his traditional way of life and the pressures of assimilation, received widespread critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1930. Laughing Boy marked the beginning of La Farge's lifelong commitment to advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples and challenging mainstream perceptions of Native American cultures. Through his writing, lectures, and activism, La Farge sought to raise awareness about the rich cultural heritage of Indigenous communities and the threats they faced from colonialism, discrimination, and cultural appropriation.

In addition to his literary achievements, La Farge also made significant contributions to the field of anthropology. He served as president of the American Anthropological Association and was instrumental in promoting the ethical treatment of Indigenous peoples in anthropological research and fieldwork. Throughout his life, La Farge remained dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cultural diversity of Indigenous peoples. He continued to write and lecture on issues related to Native American rights and cultural preservation until his death on August 2, 1963. Oliver La Farge's legacy as a champion of Indigenous rights and cultural preservation lives on through his writings, his advocacy, and his enduring influence on the fields of anthropology and literature. His commitment to social justice and cultural understanding serves as a testament to the power of individuals to make a positive impact on the world.

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