African-American poet and author known for such poetry collections as Good Times and Blessing the Boats. She is also known for her Everett Anderson series, as well as for such children's books as Three Wishes and The Lucky Stone.
She studied at Howard University on a scholarship, but received low grades and transferred to the State University of New York at Fredonia.
She was born with six fingers on each hand, as were other women in her family. She had her extra fingers removed when she was a child.
She wed artist and professor Fred James Clifton in 1958, after acting with him in a community theatrical production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.
She was the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. Claudia Emerson, too, was the Poet Laureate of a Mid-Atlantic state (Virginia).