Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born in the Igbo (formerly spelled Ibo) town of Ogidi in eastern Nigeria on November 16, 1930, the fifth child of Isaiah Okafor Achebe and Janet Iloegbunam Achebe. His father was an instructor in Christian catechism for the Church Missionary Society. Nigeria was a British colony during Achebe's early years, and educated English-speaking families like the Achebes occupied a privileged position in the Nigerian power structure. His parents even named him Albert, after Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. (Achebe himself chose his Igbo name when he was in college.)
Throughout his schooling Achebe was consistently at the top of his class and twice completed two grades within a year. In 1948 Achebe began his university career by attending University College in Ibadan which was affiliated with the University of London (UK). While at University College, Chinua Achebe switched his major from Medicine to English and History.
Chinua Achebe graduated in 1954 and left to teach at the Merchant of Light School in Eastern Nigeria. After four months he was offered and accepted a job at the Nigerian Broadcasting Service as the senior broadcasting officer of the Eastern Region. It was during this time that his first novel was published. Achebe also met his future wife, Christie Chinwe Okoli, a co-worker at the Nigerian Broadcasting Service. The two married September 10, 1961.
In October of 1960 Nigeria claimed its independence from Great Britain. Around the same time, Achebe published his second novel, No Longer at Ease. Achebe became the editor for the African Writers Series in 1962 and published his third novel, Arrow of God, in 1964. By that point regional and ethnic tensions began to push Nigeria toward civil war. The 1964 national census was disputed and election results were manipulated. Soon after the disputed census and election, the first two coups in Nigerian history occurred as Army officers deposed the civilian government and then each other. Achebe's fourth novel, A Man of the People, explored these rapidly evolving developments in Nigerian society
Between 1967 and 1970 Nigeria was convulsed in a civil war as the Igbo people attempted to form their own republic, Biafra. Achebe was active in publicizing this struggle internationally. After the rebellion was crushed, Achebe left Nigeria and became a Professor of English in the United States, first at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and later at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Eventually he returned to Nigeria and taught at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Over the years, Achebe has received dozens of honorary doctorates and several international literary awards. He is an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and his work has been translated into more than 40 languages.
In 1987 Achebe published his last novel, Anthills of the Savannah. Three years later he was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident in Lagos, Nigeria.
In 1994, he fled to Europe from the repressive Nigerian regime, which threatened to jail him. However, he later returned to Nigeria to serve as president of the town union of his native village of Ogidi, honored as such because of his dedication to his ancestors' myths and legends.
Chinua Achebe died in Boston on March 22, 2013. He was 82.
Poems - 22 in all
The First Shot
Their Idiot Song
Knowing Robs Us
Pine Tree in Spring
A Wake for Okigbo
Penalty of Godhead
Love Song (for Anna)
Beware, Soul Brother
Christmas in Biafra (1969)
Public Execution in Pictures
A Mother in a Refugee Camp