Carlene Hatcher trained at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance and then danced professionally from 1955 to 1963 in New York and Detroit. She also worked for civil rights organizations, including the Detroit Council for Human Rights and the NAACP.
In 1964 Polite moved to Paris where her first book The Flagellants was published in French in 1966, and was subsequently published in English in 1967. The book received critical acclaim, with Mel Watkins in The New York Times Book Review stating it was “a complex, scathing and often brilliant depiction of the disintegration of a black couple’s relationship,” and that it “was among the first fictional works by a black woman to focus directly on the theme of the sometimes bitter antagonism between black men and women.”
Polite published her second book Sister X and the Victims of Foul Play, about the investigation into the death of a black nightclub dancer in Paris, in 1975.
Polite joined the University at Buffalo in 1971, where she taught creative writing until her retirement in 2000.