Louise "Miss Lou" was a famed poet, folklorist, and the first Black student to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1945.
On the 7th September 2022, Google Doodle celebrated Louise "Miss Lou" Bennett-Coverley's 103rd birthday with an illustration by Jamaican guest artist Robyn Smith. The Jamaican poet, folklorist, activist and entertainer empowered the country to take pride in its language and culture. Known by many Jamaicans as “Miss Lou,” Bennett's social commentary and sense of humour made her a popular personality in the country.
Bennett was born on September 7, 1919 in Kingston, Jamaica. She developed a passion for literature and Jamaican folklore in school and began writing poetry. Fascinated by her native language, Bennett wrote in the local dialect. Her first public appearance was her recital of a poem in Jamaican patois at a concert.
Soon, Bennett was given a weekly column in The Gleaner, the island’s newspaper at the time, though they originally rejected Bennett’s poems. The majority of Jamaicans speak patois, but critics denounced it as an inferior and improper language. Her column, which captured the experiences of Jamaicans in their own language, gained support across the country.
In 1942, Bennett published her first book of poetry, Dialect Verses. It earned her a British Council scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. As the school's first Black student, Bennett worked for the British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) where she hosted the radio program Caribbean Carnival. After completing her degree, she hosted other programs like West Indian Guest Night and acted in theatre companies.
Returning to Jamaica in 1956, Bennett worked as a Drama Officer and later Director of the Jamaica Social Welfare Commission. On behalf of the commission, she moved around the country to train village instructors and regional officers with workshops like playmaking, improvisation and mime. She gave lectures on Jamaican folklore in the United States and England. Bennett also hosted radio programs like Laugh with Louise and Miss Lou's Views, and Ring Ding, a beloved Saturday morning children’s TV show airing on Jamaica Broadcasting Commission (JBC).
In 1998, the Jamaican government appointed Bennett as the country’s Cultural Ambassador at Large. She was also inducted into the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II. Bennett was a champion of her country’s language and culture, inspiring Jamaicans to take pride in both.
Happy Birthday, Miss Lou!