An African-American author of historical fiction, he is best known for works such as The Foxes of Harrow (1946), The Vixens (1947), and The Golden Hawk (1948). His numerous other works include Gillian (1960) and Goat Song (1967).
He graduated from Paine College and Fisk University. He later taught at both Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Florida A&M University.
He was the first African-American to become a millionaire through his writing.
He grew up in Augusta, Georgia as the son of mixed-race parents. He married Blanca Call-Perez in 1956.
His popular novel, The Foxes of Harrow, was made into a feature film starring Rex Harrison.