Gertrude Schalk

Gertrude Schalk (1906 – April 23, 1977), also known as Toki Schalk Johnson, was a twentieth-century African-American writer, columnist, clubwoman, and newspaper editor. Although she lived and worked outside of New York City, her early fiction is sometimes considered as part of the broader Harlem Renaissance literary movement.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lillian Schalk was born in Boston, Massachusetts, daughter of Theodore O. Schalk and Mary Wilkerson Schalk. She had a sister, Bali, and two brothers, Theodore and George.[2] She changed her first name to Gertrude as a young woman.[3]


Four short stories by Gertrude Schalk appeared in the Saturday Evening Quill, a publication the Saturday Evening Quill Club, a black literary organization cofounded in Boston by Eugene Gordon, of which Schalk was an original member.[4][5] Those stories included "The Black Madness" (1928), which was also featured in The Best American Short Stories anthology for 1928,[6][7] and "The Red Cape" (1929).[8]

Schalk was also editor of Sunburst magazine, and later women's editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, a major African-American newspaper. She had a regular column, "Toki Types", which ran in the society pages until 1974.[9]

In 1961, Schalk became one of the first black members (along with Hazel Garland) of the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh. She won the club's annual Mary Shine Award in 1969.[10] In 1970, she was elected president of that organization.[11][12]

Personal life[edit]

Gertrude Schalk married John Wesley Johnson III, a journalist from Ohio, in 1946,[13] and was widowed when he died in 1969. While living in Pittsburgh, she founded that city's chapter of Jack and Jill of America.[14] She also helped to found the Pittsburgh chapter of Girlfriends Incorporated.[15]

For the last five years of her life, she lived "with much joie de vivre" in a nursing home in Detroit, Michigan, where her sister lived.[16][17] She died in 1977, age 71.[18]


  1. ^ Amber Harris Leichner, "'To Bend without Breaking': American Women's Authorship and the New Woman, 1900-1935" (PhD diss., University of Nebraska, 2012).
  2. ^ "Theodore Schalk Buried in Boston" Pittsburgh Courier (November 14, 1953): 8. via Open access icon
  3. ^ Lorraine Elena Roses and Ruth Elizabeth Randolph, eds., Harlem's Glory: Black Women Writing, 1900-1950 (Harvard University Press 1996): 527. ISBN 9780674372696
  4. ^ Ann Allen Shockley, "Afro-American Women Writers: The New Negro Movement, 1924-1933" in Lisa Rado, ed., Rereading Modernism: New Directions in Feminist Criticism (Routledge 2012): 125. ISBN 9780415524124
  5. ^ Verner Mitchell and Cynthia Davis, Literary Sisters: Dorothy West and her Circle, a Biography of the Harlem Renaissance (Rutgers University Press 2011): 91. ISBN 9780813552132
  6. ^ "Four Race Stories in 1928 Anthology" Afro American (November 10, 1928).
  7. ^ "Youthful Writers Honored" Pittsburgh Courier (November 10, 1928): 24. via Open access icon
  8. ^ Gertrude Schalk, "The Red Cape" Saturday Evening Quill 2(1929): 45-48.
  9. ^ "Toki Types" Pittsburgh Courier (April 10, 1965): 7. via Open access icon
  10. ^ "Toki Wins Press Club Award in Pitts." Pittsburgh Courier (March 1, 1969): 10. via Open access icon
  11. ^ Candi S. Carter Olson, "'We Tell the Stories of the People': Toki Schalk Johnson and Hazel Garland Integrating White Spaces while Representing Black Voices" Journalism History 40(4)(Winter 2015).
  12. ^ Candi S. Carter Olson, "'Try to Lift Someone Else as we Climb': 120 Years of the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh and the Women's Movement" (PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 2013).
  13. ^ "Courier Women's Editor Weds Ohio Newsman in Ceremony Held at Home of Mrs. R. L. Vann" Pittsburgh Courier (June 8, 1946): 8. via Open access icon
  14. ^ Debbie Norrell, "Commemorate, Celebrate and Cultivate: Pgh Jack and Jill's Celebrate 70th Anniversary" New Pittsburgh Courier Online (February 12, 2014).
  15. ^ Girl Friends Incorporated, Pittsburgh Chapter.
  16. ^ Gerri Major, "Society World" Jet Magazine (December 18, 1975): 46.
  17. ^ Bernice Shelton, "Morgan House Still Popular" Baltimore Afro-American (April 8, 1975).
  18. ^ Hazel Garland, "Things to Talk About" Pittsburgh Courier (May 7, 1977): 13. via Open access icon

External links[edit]