Clara Ann Thompson was born, possibly in 1868, in Rossmoyne, Ohio. Both of her parents were formerly enslaved people. According to Mary Anne Stewart Boelcskevy, she was a member of the YWCA, the NAACP and was active in the Baptist Church. While her collection, Songs from the Wayside was self-published in 1908, some of her poems were anthologized in prominent collections, including the Walter Clinton Jackson/Newman Ivey White collection An Anthology of Verse by American Negroes (1924).
Songs from the Wayside contains a significant number of poems using Black vernacular English, referred to at the time as "dialect poetry." Dialect poetry was quite popular in the time, as many writers were influenced by the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who published several volumes of dialect poetry starting in the 1890s. However, for some writers and critics in the 1910s and 20s the use of dialect would be considered passe.