The popularity of Petry’s first novel and articles were so large that she had to move back to her hometown in order to continue writing peacefully.
Though her writings were based in Harlem, Petry’s books were considered part of the Chicago Renaissance. Her themes often surrounded black urban life as a site of hopelessness. Petry would ultimately write four novels and be published in The Amsterdam News, The People’s Voice, and The Crisis. She would earn her pharmacy degree like her father, and teach troubled children in Harlem throughout her career.
Petry’s first and most powerful novel, “The Street” won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, with book sales topping a million copies.