Beinecke Library’s Melissa Barton, Nancy Kuhl, Tubyez Cropper, and Michael Morand will speak on seven of the authors, artists, and activists photographed by Carl Van Vechten and whose images are included in a new outdoor display on the library’s ground floor windows.
On the building’s east side, facing Hewitt Quadrangle, the new exhibition begins with text from the opening lines of Langston Hughes’s poem, “Let America Be America Again.” The poem by Langston Hughes was first published in Esquire in 1936 and, revised, in a collection of his poetry, A New Song, in 1938. The Langston Hughes Papers are the single most consulted archive in the Beinecke Library. Given by him beginning in 1941 and continuing throughout his life, they are part of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters.
To the right of that text are a series of images are from color photographs taken by Carl Van Vechten. He was the founder of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection with support and donations by many authors, artists, and activists, including some pictured on the windows, such as Hughes, Dorothy Peterson, Harold Jackman, Grace Nail Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson. Other images show writers represented in Beinecke Library archival collections, including James Baldwin, Margaret Bonds, Countee Cullen, and Richard Wright, and other great civic and cultural leaders such as Marian Anderson, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Ella Fitzgerald.
The capsule biographies in this episode will include: Zora Neale Hurston, Marian Anderson, Mary McLeod Bethune, Countee Cullen, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Robeson, and Richard Wright.