Era Bell Thompson was born 10 August 1906 in Des Moines, Iowa. Her parents were Stewart Calvin "Tony" and Mary Logan Thompson. At about the age of nine, Era Bell and her family moved to Driscoll, North Dakota. After graduating from high school in Bismarck, Thompson attended the University of North Dakota (UND) where she participated in various sports and wrote for the Dakota Student newspaper. Thompson transferred from UND after two years to Morningside College in Iowa where she received her bachelor of arts degree in 1933.
She eventually moved to Chicago where she worked for a time with the Public Works Administration and took advanced classes in the School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Thompson completed her first book American Daughter, an autobiography, in 1946 and later became managing editor with Ebony magazine. She received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from UND in February 1969 and the Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award from the State of North Dakota in 1976. The multicultural center (formerly the Black Cultural Center) at UND is named in her honor. Thompson wrote another book Africa, Land of my Father and was co-editor of the book White on Black. She died 30 December 1986 in Chicago.
The Era Bell Thompson Papers include a poem she wrote in high school, articles from the Dakota Student, and a transcript of an interview from 1978.
Note that a large Era Bell Thompson collection (99 linear feet) is located at the Chicago Public Library in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature.