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Waldo David Frank

American author and activist whose ideology influenced many intellectuals.

Once considered among the most influential of twentieth-century intellectuals, Waldo Frank is now largely forgotten. This is not for lack of writings; Frank

Waldo Frank (AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced with permission.)

wrote 14 novels, 18 volumes of social history, and numerous articles for literary and political magazines. During the 1920s, Frank was part of an artistic circle that included such artists as Alfred Stieglitz, Van Wyck Brooks, Countee Cullen, and Jean Toomer. His first wife (1916-1924) was Margaret Naumburg, who pioneered art therapy. He was particularly admired in Spain, France, and Latin America, where his writings are still well known.

Waldo David Frank was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on August 25, 1889. His parents, Julius and Helen Rosenberg Frank, provided their son with a comfortable existence in which his intellectual curiosity was stimulated. A voracious reader, he was expelled from his high school in his senior year for refusing to take a required course on Shakespeare because he felt that he knew more about Shakespeare than the teacher did. At around the same time he completed his first novel, which was never published.

After a year in boarding school in Switzerland, Frank enrolled at Yale University, where he graduated with a combined bachelor's and master's degree in 1911. During his years at Yale, Frank became attracted to radical ideas and contributed to socialist journals such as The Liberator and New Masses. He also wrote a drama column for the local paper. Upon graduation, he wrote some pieces for the New York Times, traveled through Europe for a year, and tried unsuccessfully to launch a literary magazine.

In his novels Frank tended to advocate social and political reform. His novels include Unwelcome Man (1917), City Block (1922), and The Death and Birth of David Mark and (1934). Frank, who described himself as a "naturalistic mystic," was an admirer of Freud, and in many of his works he injected his own understanding of psychoanalysis. Thus, although not a psychoanalyst himself, he was able to help popularize analysis through his works. Books on politics by Frank include The Rediscovery of America (1929), America Hispania (1931), Birth of the World (1951), and The Prophetic Island: A Portrait of Cuba (1961).

Frank had one son with Naumburg and two children with his second wife, Alma Magoon (whom he married in 1927). By the time he died in January 1967, he was largely forgotten in the United States, although his works and theories flourished in other countries, especially in South America.

George A. Milite

Further Reading

Current Biography, 1940. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1940.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists