Carrie Allen McCray was born on October 1, 1913, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Her father, William Patterson Allen, was a lawyer and her mother, Mary Rice Hayes Allen, was a college teacher. After moving to New Jersey at the age of 7, McCray received her B.A. from Talladega College in 1935 and her M.A. in Social Work from New York University in 1955. Finally, in 1986, she moved to Columbia, SC.
As an African-American woman growing up in the twentieth century, McCray faced many obstacles throughout her life including cross-burning threats against her family and being refused service in restaurants. As an adult she also played an active role in the Civil Rights Movement.
McCray had worked as both a teacher and a social worker by the age of 73 when she began to write. Her published works usually focused on the lives of her grandmother, a freed slave, her grandfather, a Confederate General, and their daughter, her mother. These works include Ajos Means Goodbye (1966), The Black Woman and Family Roles (1980), and her first-person memoir about her mother's life, Freedom's Child: The Life of a Confederate General's Black Daughter (1998). Her poems have been published in magazines including Ms. and The River Styx. Ota Benga Under My Mother's Roof, a narrative about a pigmy man who lived with her family for some time after being rescued from a human exhibit at the Bronx's Zoo, was her last published work.
Carrie Allen McCray died on July 25, 2008, at the age of 94.