Richard Bruce Nugent

Richard Bruce Nugent

Richard Bruce Nugent in 1982
Richard Bruce Nugent in 1982 

Richard Bruce Nugent (July 2, 1906 – May 27, 1987), aka Richard Bruce or Bruce Nugent, was an African American atist, writer, painter.  Most notably, he was the openly gay black intellectual during the Harlem Renaissance.

He was born in Washington, DC  on July 2nd 1906 to a middle-class African American family of ‘high’ social position in the black community.  He was the oldest child of parents Richard H. Nugent, Jr., a train porter, and Pauline Minerva Bruce, an accomplished pianist who was trained as a schoolteacher.

He was a protégé of Alain Locke, to whom he was connected via their families and he was also a contemporary of Langston HughesAaron DouglasWallace Thurman, and Zora Neale Hurston.   He was a roommate of Wallace Thurman and was for over thirty years, and was the only openly gay African American writer.

Richard Bruce Nugent 

Richard Bruce Nugent

While his literary and artistic outputs were relatively modest relative to his contemporaries of the time, Richard Bruce Nugent was a key player in the New Negro movement.  His unique and unorthodox personal style and sexual conventions snubbed the established mores of the time.  Nugent’s lifestyle was that of the ultimate bohemian.  Because of the notoriety surrounding him, and to avoid the disapproval of and embarrassment to his family, he assumed the pseudonym of Richard Bruce.  It is this pseudonym that is often attached to his writings and drawings.  He has been described as a “bizarre and eccentric vagabond poet,” and “a non-conformist who refused to accept so-called middle class standards.”  Other attributes used to describe him were “cutting-edge, good-looking, great sense of humor, and intelligent.”

Nugent was a frequent participant at poet Georgia Douglas Johnson’s famous artistic salon where writers and intellectuals congregated in Washington.  In June 1925, at Georgia’s place, he met Langston Hughes whose first book, “The Weary Blues”, was about to be published within a few months.  An immediate friendship was struck between the two men.   According to Eric Garber in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, from their first meeting it was evident that “Nugent was captivated by the rising young poet’s [Langston] handsome appearance, his worldly experiences, his gentle manner, and his literary success”. 

In August 1925, Nugent accompanied Hughes from DC to New York, where Hughes introduced him to Carl Van Vechten, Countee Cullen, and other Harlem Renaissance luminaries.  Nugent later returned and decided to take up residence permanently in New York.  Howard University professor and Rhodes scholar Alain Locke had family ties to Nugent and included Nugent's story "Sahdji"in The New Negro in 1925.   This story came about surreptitiously.  Locke asked Nugent to write a brief explanation of a drawing that he had done of a young African woman. The narrative ended up being more useful than the graphic that Nugent had done.  Locke continuously encouraged Nugent in his artistic endeavors.  As it turned out, The New Negro would underpin much of the New Negro Movement/ Harlem Renaissance with the help of Nugent and Locke.


Shortly thereafter, Nugent was able to get some of his works published on the cover of Opportunity.  He then moved in with Wallace Thurman, joined Jean Toomer's Harlem “Gurdjieff” group, and collaborated with all of the notables - Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Bennett and John P. Davis to publish the premier issue of FIRE!!.  The New Negro movement needed to show white Americans that blacks were not inferior without being fostering dishonesty and propaganda.  FIRE!! was meant to be the younger generation's declaration of independence from the older black bourgeoisie’s ideals and expectations.

Richard Bruce Nugent and wife Grace circa 1950s 

Richard Bruce Nugent and wife Grace, circa 1950s

In 1926, Nugent published “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade”, a short story regarded by many scholars as the first publication by an African American to depict homosexuality openly.  The story, on which he collaborated with other authors, appeared in the only issue of Fire!!, which closed soon after its first run.   His creative involvement included two brush and ink drawings and a short story.  This short story was the first literary work on a purely homosexual theme that had been published by an African American.  By today’s standards, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade” is mild in its treatment of same-sex encounters.

To deliver his message in the short story, Richard Bruce used elliptics throughout the narrative.  In electing to use elliptics, as a style to emulate speech and thought processes, he aimed to approximate actual speech, giving short and long pauses to reflect a more nature speech pattern.  Nugent was also involved with a second magazine undertaking.  In 1928, he served as associated editor of Harlem: A Forum of Negro Life.  The only issue of Harlem was published in November 1928.  In its short life, Richard Bruce wrote the theatre reviews.

Richard Bruce Nugent  

Richard Bruce Nugent

Nugent did not follow the usual expectations and norms of a society that he felt created restrictive boundaries.  In his own words, he stated that he was always called flamboyant. His unwillingness to live up to societal expectations is exemplified in his assessment of Locke.  According to Nugent, “Alain Locke had decided that he had his finger on the pulse of every black person who was doing anything. Almost everybody listened to his dictates, except Wally [Wallace Thurman] and me.” (Smith, p. 216)

Many of his illustrations were featured in publications, such as Opportunity and Palms.  Four of his works were included in the Harmon Foundation’s exhibition of Negro artist, which was one of the few venues available for black artists to show their work in 1931.  His only stand-alone publication, “Beyond Where the Stars Stood Still”, was issued in a limited edition by Warren Marr II in 1945.  He later married Marr's sister, Grace on December 5, 1952.  This marriage was never consummated since he was openly gay, but she insisted they marry with the notion that she could change him.   It was not seen as a ploy to hide his homosexuality.  He admits without any hesitation that the love he had for her was not a physical love or lust. They were married for seventeen years. 

He attended the Community Planning Conference at Columbia University in 1964 as an invited speaker. The conference was held under the auspices of the Borough President of Manhattan/Community Planning Board 10 and Columbia.  The idea of forming an organization to promote the arts in Harlem emerged from the conference’s Cultural Planning workshop and led to the formation of the Harlem Cultural Council.  Nugent took an active role in this effort and attended numerous subsequent meetings. Nugent was elected co-chair (a position equivalent to vice president) of this council. He also served as chair of the Program Committee until March, 1967.

His wife Grace died of ovarian cancer in 1969 and Nugent of congestive heart failure seventeen years later in 1987.  Spending a large part of his life in New York City, he died just outside the state in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

Popular Culture Portrayal

Bibliography

  • Shadow
  • My Love
  • Narcissus
  • Incest
  • Who Asks This Thing?
  • Bastard Song
  • Sahdji
  • Smoke, Lilies and Jade
  • The Now Discordant Song of Bells
  • Slender Length of Beauty
  • Tunic with a Thousand Pleats
  • Pope Pius the Only
  • On Harlem
  • On Georgette Harvey
  • On Gloria Swanson
  • Lunatique
  • Pattern for Future Dirges

 

 

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REFERENCES / SOURCES / LINKS


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Countee Culllen

Countee Cullen  photographed by Carl Van Vechten 1941 

Countee Cullen, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1941

Countee Cullen (1903 – January 9, 1946) was an black poet who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Early life

Countee Cullen was possibly born on May 30, although due to conflicting accounts of his early life, a general application of the year of his birth as 1903 has been accepted as reasonable.  He was either born in New YorkBaltimore, or Lexington, Kentucky, but his widow being convinced he was born in Lexington.  Cullen was possibly abandoned by his mother, and reared by a woman named Mrs. Porter, who was probably his paternal grandmother.  Porter brought young Countee to Harlem when he was nine.  She died in 1918.  No known reliable information exists of his childhood until 1918 when he was taken in, or adopted, by Reverend and Mrs Frederick A. Cullen of Harlem, New York City.  The Reverend was the local minister, and founder, of the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church.

 Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen

At some point, Cullen entered the DeWitt Clinton High School in Manhattan. He excelled academically at the school while emphasizing his skills at poetry and in oratorical contest.  At DeWitt, he was elected into the honor society, editor of the weekly newspaper, and elected vice-president of his graduating class.  In January 1922, he graduated with honors in Latin, Greek, Mathematics, and French from New York University and later Harvard University with a degree in English.

Yet Do I Marvel

“I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must someday die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brains compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!”

After graduating high school, he entered New York University (NYU).  In 1923, he won second prize in the Witter Bynner undergraduate poetry contest, which was sponsored by the Poetry Society of America, with a poem entitled “The Ballad of the Brown Girl”.  At about this time, some of his poetry was published in national periodicals -  Harper'sCrisisOpportunityThe Bookman, and Poetry.  The ensuing year he again placed second in the Witter Bynner contest, finally winning it in 1925.  Cullen competed in a poetry contest sponsored by Opportunity and came in second with “To One Who Say Me Nay”, while losing to Langston Hughes's “The Weary Blues”.  Sometime thereafter, Cullen graduated from NYU as one of eleven students selected to Phi Beta Kappa

Cullen entered Harvard in 1925, to pursue a masters in English, about the same time his first collection of poems, “Color”, was published.  Written in a careful, traditional style, the work celebrated black beauty and deplored the effects of racism.  The book included "Heritage" and "Incident", probably his most famous poems.  "Yet Do I Marvel", about racial identity and injustice, showed the influence of the literary expression of William Wordsworth and William Blake, but its subject was far from the world of their romantic sonnets.  The poet accepts that there is God, and "God is good, well-meaning, kind", but he finds a contradiction of his own plight in a racist society: he is black and a poet.

Cullen's “Color” was a landmark of the Harlem Renaissance.  He graduated with a masters degree in 1926.

Professional career

The 1920s artistic movement produced the first large body of work in the United States written by African Americans.  However, Cullen considered poetry raceless, although his poem "The Black Christ" took a racial theme - lynching of a black youth for a crime he did not commit.  

Countee Cullen  

Countee Cullen

The movement was centered in the cosmopolitan community of Harlem, in New York City. During the 1920s, a fresh generation of writers emerged. Some leading figures were Alain Locke (“The New Negro”, 1925), James Weldon Johnson (“Black Manhattan”, 1930), Claude McKay (“Home to Harlem”, 1928), Hughes (“The Weary Blues”, 1926), Zora Neale Hurston (“Jonah's Gourd Vine”, 1934), Wallace Thurman (“Harlem: A Melodrama of Negro Life”, 1929), Jean Toomer(Cane, 1923) and Arna Bontemps (“Black Thunder”, 1935).  The movement was accelerated by grants and scholarships and supported by such white writers as Carl Van Vechten.

Cullen worked as assistant editor for Opportunity magazine, where his column, "The Dark Tower", increased his literary reputation.  His poetry collections “The Ballad of the Brown Girl” (1927) and “Copper Sun” (1927) explored similar themes as “Color”, but they were not nearly as well received.  Cullen's Guggenheim Fellowship of 1928 enabled him to study and write abroad.  He met Nina Yolande Du Bois, daughter of W. E. B. Du Bois, the leading black intellectual of the time.  At that time Yolande was involved romantically with a popular band leader.  Between the years 1928 and 1934, Cullen traveled back and forth between France and the United States.

 Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen

 Cullen married Yolande Du Bois in April 1928. It was the social event of the decade, attracting lots of attention in the black community, but the marriage did not fare well, and the pair divorced in 1930.  It is rumored that Cullen was a homosexual, and his relationship with Harold Jackman (‘the handsomest man in Harlem’), was a significant factor in the divorce.  The young, dashing Jackman was a school teacher and, thanks to his noted beauty, a prominent figure among Harlem's gay elite.  Van Vechten had used him as a character model in his novel “Nigger Heaven” (1926).

It's very possible that the conflicted Cullen was in love with the homosexual Jackman, but Thomas Wirth, author of “Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance, Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent”, says there is no concrete proof that they ever were lovers, despite newspaper stories and gossip suggesting the contrary.  Jackman's diaries, letters, and outstanding collections of memorabilia are held in various depositories across the country, such as the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans and Atlanta University in Georgia.  At Cullen's death, Jackman requested that the name of the Georgia archive be changed from the Harold Jackman Collection to the Countee Cullen Memorial Collection in honor of his friend.  When Jackman himself succombed to cancer in 1961, the collection was renamed the Cullen-Jackman Collection to honor both men.

By 1929 Cullen had published four volumes of poetry.  The title poem of “The Black Christ and Other Poems” (1929) was criticized for the use of Christian religious imagery - Cullen compared the lynching of a black man to the crucification of Jesus.

 The grave of Countee Cullen in Woodlawn Cemetery

The grave of Countee Cullen in Woodlawn Cemetery

As well as writing books himself, Cullen promoted the work of other black writers.  But by 1930 Cullen's reputation as a poet waned.  In 1932 appeared his only novel, “One Way to Heaven”, a social comedy of lower-class blacks and the bourgeoisie in New York City.  From 1934 until the end of his life, he taught English, French, and creative writing at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York City.  During this period, he also wrote two pieces for young readers: “The Lost Zoo” (1940), poems about the animals who perished in the Flood, and “My Lives and How I Lost Them”, an autobiography of his cat.  In the last years of his life, Cullen wrote mostly for the theatre.  He worked with Arna Bontemps to adapt his 1931 novel “God Sends Sunday” into “St. Louis Woman” (1946, published 1971) for the musical stage.  Its score was composed by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, both white. The Broadway musical, set in poor black neighborhood in St. Louis, was criticized by black intellectuals for creating a negative image of black Americans.  Cullen also translated the Greek tragedy Medea by Euripides, which was published in 1935 as “The Medea and Some Poems” with a collection of sonnets and short lyrics.

In 1940, Cullen married Ida Mae Robertson, whom he had known for ten years.

Bibliography

Poetry

  • "I Have a Rendezvous With Life" (1920s, poem)
  • ColorHarper & brothers, 1925; Ayer, 1993,ISBN 978-0-88143-155-1[includes the poems "Incident," "Near White," "Heritage," and others], illustrations by Charles Cullen
  • Copper Sun, Harper & brothers, 1927
  • The Ballad of the Brown GirlHarper & Brothers, 1927, illustrations by Charles Cullen
  • The Black Christ and Other Poems, Harper & brothers, 1929, illustrations by Charles Cullen
  • Tableau(1925)
  • One way to heaven, Harper & brothers, 1932
  • Any Human to Another(1934)
  • The Medea and Some Other Poems(1935)
  • The lost zoo, Harper & brothers, 1940, Illustrations by Charles Sebree
  • My lives and how I lost them, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1942
  • On These I Stand: An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countee Cullen, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1947
  • My Soul's High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen(1991)
  • Countee Cullen: Collected Poems, Library of America, 2013 (forthcoming),ISBN 978-1-59853-083-4

 Prose

  • One Way to Heaven(1931)
  • The Lost Zoo(1940)
  • My Lives and How I Lost Them(1942)

 Drama

  • St. Louis Woman (1946)

 

 

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Wallace Thurman

Wallace Thurman 

Wallace Thurman  

The Renaissance Revolutionary

Born August 16, 1902 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wallace Thurman was a novelistdramatistcolumnist, essayisteditorpublisher, and intellectual of the Harlem Renaissance.  He is best known for his novel “The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life”, which explores the insulated discrimination among black people, based on skin color. 

Thurman was born in Salt Lake City to Beulah and Oscar Thurman.  Between his mother's many marriages, Wallace and his mother lived with Emma Jackson, his maternal grandmother.  His grandmother's home doubled as a saloon where alcohol was served without a license.  When Thurman was less than a month old, his father abandoned him and his mother.  It was not until Wallace was 30 years old that he met his father.

Thurman's early life was marked by loneliness, family instability, and illness.  He began grade school at age six in Boise, Idaho but his poor health eventually led to a two-year absence from school, during which time he returned to Salt Lake City.  From 1910 to 1914, Thurman lived in Chicago, but he would have to finish grammar school in Omaha, Nebraska.  During this time, he suffered from persistent heart attacks.  While living in the low altitude town of Pasadena, California in the winter of 1918, Thurman came down with influenza during the worldwide Influenza Pandemic.  Considering his history of illness, he surprisingly recovered and then returned to Salt Lake City, where he finished high school.

Wallace Thurman - The Blacker the Berry 

Wallace Thurman, The Blacker the Berry

Throughout it all, Thurman was reading voraciously.  He enjoyed the works of PlatoAristotleShakespeareHavelock EllisFlaubertCharles Baudelaire and many others.  He wrote his first novel at the age of 10.  He attended the University of Utah from 1919 to 1920 as a pre-medical student.  However, in 1922 he transferred to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, though he never got his degree.  While in Los Angeles, he met and befriended Arna Bontemps and became first a reporter for an African-American-owned newspaper and then a columnist.  He also started his first magazine, “Outlet”, which was intended to be a West Coast equivalent to The Crisis.

Career

In 1925 Thurman moved to Harlem.  In less than 10 years, he obtained various employments as a ghostwriter, a publisher, an editor, and a writer of novelsplays, and articles.  The following year he became the editor of The Messenger, a socialist journal aimed at black audiences.  While at The Messenger, Thurman became the first to publish the adult-themed stories of Langston Hughes.  Thurman left the journal in October 1926 to become the editor of a white-owned magazine called World Tomorrow.  The following month he collaborated in publishing the literary magazine Fire!!, devoted to the Younger Negro Artists, with the likes of Hughes, Zora Neale HurstonRichard Bruce NugentAaron Douglas, and Gwendolyn B. Bennett.

Wallace Thurman - Infants of the Spring 

Wallace Thurman, Infants of the Spring

Only one issue of Fire!! was ever published. In the issue, the magazine challenged the ideas of W. E. B. Du Bois and many of the African American bourgeoisie, who, in their search for social equality and racial integration, believed that black art should serve as propaganda for those ends.  It expressed many of the ideas in tandem with The New Negro movement, which wanted to show white Americans that blacks were not inferior.

Fire!! was conceived with the notion of expressing the black experience during the Harlem Renaissance in a modern and realistic fashion, using literature as a vehicle of enlightenment. The authors of this magazine wanted to create an arena in which they could express the changing attitudes of younger African Americans.  Furthermore, they used Fire!! to facilitate the exploration of issues in the Black community that were not in the forefront of mainstream African American society such as homosexualitybisexualityinterracial relationshipspromiscuityprostitution, and color prejudice within the Black community itself.

The publication was so named, according to Langston Hughes, "to burn up a lot of the old, dead conventional Negro-white ideas of the past ... into a realization of the existence of the younger Negro writers and artists, and provide us with an outlet for publication not available in the limited pages of the small Negro magazines then existing.”  Ironically, Fire!! magazine's headquarters burned to the ground shortly after releasing the first issue.

 Wallace Thurman - Fire

Wallace Thurman, Fire 

Unsurprisingly, the magazine was found offensive for many reasons and it was denounced by Black leaders of Du Bois’ Talented Tenth, "who viewed the effort as decadent and vulgar" as they felt that the content relating to prostitution and homosexuality was degrading.  They thought the magazine’s content was a step back for the public image of African Americans because it invoked negative stereotypes such as blacks speaking in southern vernacular (Zora Neale Hurston’s footprints), which were undignified and reflected poorly on the Black race

But Thurman and others of the "Niggerati" (the deliberately ironic name Thurman used for the young African American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance) wanted to show the real lives of African Americans, both the good and the bad.  Thurman believed that black artists should be more objective in their writings and not so self-conscious that they failed to acknowledge and celebrate the arduous conditions of African American lives.  As Singh and Scott put it, "Thurman's Harlem Renaissance is, thus, staunch and revolutionary in its commitment to individuality and critical objectivity: the black writer need not pander to the aesthetic preferences of the black middle class, nor should he or she write for an easy and patronizing white approval." 

Wallace Thurman - Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman 

Wallace Thurman, Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman

During this time, Thurman's rooming house apartment at 267 West 136th Street in Harlem became the main hub where the African-American literary avant-garde and visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance met and socialized.  Thurman and Hurston mockingly called the room "Niggerati Manor", in reference to all of the black literati who showed up there.  The walls of Niggerati Manor were painted red and black, colors to be emulated on the cover of Fire!!  Richard Bruce Nugent painted murals on the walls, some of which contained homoerotic content.

In 1928, Thurman published another magazine called Harlem: a Forum of Negro Life, whose contributors included Alain LockeGeorge Schuyler, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson.  The publication lasted for only two issues.  

Personal life

Thurman married Louise Thompson Patterson on August 22, 1928.  The marriage lasted only six months.  Thompson said that Wallace was a homosexual and therefore reasoned that their union was incompatible.

Thurman died December 22, 1934 in New York City at the age of 32 from tuberculosis,.  Many suspect that his health problems were exacerbated by his long fight with alcoholism.

Thurman's writings

According to Langston Hughes, who noted Thurman's dark complexion in this statement, Thurman was "...a strangely brilliant black boy, who had read everything and whose critical mind could find something wrong with everything he read." In other words, Thurman was described as black and also as a passionate reader. These two qualities allowed him to reach great heights as a writer in the Harlem Renaissance.  From a young age, Thurman's dark skin color was always an issue; it prompted negative comments and reactions from various black and white Americans. Unfortunate though it might be, his blackness, and the discrimination he was subject to because of it, provided excellent fuel which propelled his writing career.

Thurman wrote a play, Harlem, which debuted on Broadway in 1929 to mixed reviews. The same year his novel “The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life” was published.  The novel is now recognized as a groundbreaking work of fiction because of its focus on intraracial prejudice and colorism– specifically between light-skinned and dark-skinned black people.  Three years later Thurman published “Infants of the Spring”, a satire of the themes and the individuals of the Harlem Renaissance.  He co-authored The Interne, a final novel with A.L. Furman, published in 1932.

  

Brought to you by Paris-based black painter Ealy Mays

 

 

REFERENCES / SOURCES / LINKS


  •  African American portal
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • African American literature
  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. In Aberjhani & Sandra West (Ed.),Wallace Thurman, pp.328-330
  • Singh & Scott. (2003), p.3
  • Aberjhani.(2003). p.328
  • Hardy, Sheila J. & Hardy, P.S. (2000). In "Wallace Thurman",Extraordinary People of the Harlem Renaissance, p.136. Children's Press.
  • Singh & Scott. (2003), p.19-20
  • West (2003), p.242.
  • Aberjhani. (2003).p.329
  • Louise Thompson said, "I never understood Wallace. He took nothing seriously. He laughed about everything. He would often threaten to commit suicide but you knew he would never do it. And he would never admit that he was a homosexual, but he was. Never, never, not to me at any rate." Rampersad, vol.1,(1986),p. 172
  • Aberjhani and West, Sandra, eds.Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, "Wallace Thurman", pp.328-330. (2003)
  • Singh, Amritjit, & Scott, Daniel M. (2003).The Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman: A Harlem Renaissance Reader. Rutgers University PressISBN 0-8135-3301-5
  • Aberjhani and West, Sandra, eds.Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, "Wallace Thurman", (2003). Checkmark PressISBN 0-8160-4540-2
  • Rampersad, Arnold (1986).The Life of Langston Hughes Volume 1: I, Too, Sing America. Oxford University PressISBN 0-19-514642-5
  • Hughes, Langston.The Big Sea. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994. (pgs 233 through 238)
  • Huggins, Nathan Irvin.Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
  • Thurman's bibliography and a copy of table of contents from literary magazineFire!!
  • Detailed biography of Thurman
  • Wallace Thurman at glbtq

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Arna Bontemps

Arna Bontemps photographed by Carl Van Vechten 1938 

Arna Bontemps, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1938

 The Quiet One

ARNAUD WENDELL BONTEMPS “Arna Bontemps”(October 13, 1902 – June 4, 1973) was an African American poet and a noted member of the Harlem Renaissance.  Bontemps was born in the city of AlexandriaLouisiana on October 13, 1902 to Charlie Bontemps and Marie Pembrooke Bontemps, a Louisiana Creole family.  When he was three, his family moved to Los Angeles, California in the Great Migration of blacks out of the South to cities in the North, Midwest and West.  They settled in what became known as the Watts district. Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in California in 1923, where he majored in English and minored in history.  Bontemps was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. 

After graduation, he went to New York to teach at Harlem Academy.  In New York Bontemps became an important contributor to the Harlem Renaissance.  His move to New York was also an important one because of the lifelong friends he met there including Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.  Hughes and Bomteps became especially close. Hughes became a role model, collaborator, and dear friend to Bontemps.

Etta Moten Barnett  Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes 

Etta Moten Barnett, Arna Bontemps, and Langston Hughes

He returned to graduate school and earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Chicago in 1943.  Bontemps was appointed as head librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  In that position for nearly a quarter of a century, he developed important collections and archives of African-American literature and culture, namely the Langston Hughes Renaissance Collection.

Literary career

In addition to being a librarian, Bontemps was a very talented writer. He received a lot of attention for his first novel, “God Sends Sunday” (1931), and “Black Thunder” (1936).  He wrote the play “St. Louis Woman” (1946) with Countee Cullen. His anthology “Great Slave Narratives” also earned him some attention when it was published in 1969.  Bontemps was a man of many talents, and he wrote several children's books.  Among these, “The Story of the Negro” (1948) received critical praise. It received the Jane Addams Book Award and was a Newbery Honor Book.

Later years

After retiring from Fisk University in 1966, Bontemps worked at the University of Illinois (Chicago Circle).  He later moved to Yale University, where he served as curator of the James Weldon Johnson Collection.  Through his librarianship and bibliographic work, Bontemps became a leading figure in establishing African-American literature as a legitimate object of study and preservation. 

Arna Bontemps Courtesy of Arna Bontemps Museum 

Arna Bontemps Courtesy of Arna Bontemps Museum

Bontemps died June 4, 1973, in Nashville, from a myocardial infarction (heart attack), while working on his autobiography.

Legacy and honors

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Arna Bontemps on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

Works

  • (Unless noted otherwise, Bontemps is the main author of the work)
  • God Sends Sunday, (New York, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1931)
  • Popo and Fifina, Children of Haiti, by Arna Bontemps andLangston Hughes, (New York: Macmillan, 1932)
  • You Can’t Pet a Possum, (New York: W. Morrow, 1934)
  • Black Thunder: Gabriel's Revolt: Virginia 1800, (New York: Macmillan, 1936)
  • Sad-faced Boy, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1937)
  • Drums at Dusk: a Novel, (New York: Macmillan, 1939/ reprinted Baton Rouge, Louisiana:Louisiana State University Press, 2009ISBN 978-0-8071-3439-9)
  • Golden Slippers: an Anthology of Negro Poetry for Young Readers, compiled by Arna Bontemps, (New York: Harper & Row, 1941)
  • The Fast Sooner Hound, by Arna Bontemps and Jack Conroy, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942)
  • They Seek a City, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1945)
  • We Have Tomorrow, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1945)
  • Slappy Hooper, the Wonderful Sign Painter, by Arna Bontemps and Jack Conroy, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946)
  • Story of the Negro, (New York: Knopf, 1948)
  • The Poetry of the Negro, 1746–1949: an anthology, edited by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1949)
  • George Washington Carver, (Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson, 1950)
  • W.C. HandyFather of the Blues: an Autobiography, edited by Arna Bontemps, (New York: Macmillan, 1957)
  • Chariot in the Sky: a Story of theJubilee Singers, (Philadelphia, (London: P. Breman, 1963)
  • Famous Negro Athletes, (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1964)
  • Great Slave Narratives, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969)
  • Hold Fast to Dreams: Poems Old and New Selected by Arna Bontemps, (Chicago: Follett, 1969)
  • Mr. Kelso’s Lion, (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1970)
  • Free at Last: the Life of Frederick Douglass, (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971)
  • The Harlem Renaissance Remembered: Essays, Edited, With a Memoir, (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972)
  • Young Booker: Booker T. Washington’s Early Days, (New York, Dodd, Mead, 1972)
  • The Old South: "A Summer Tragedy" and Other Stories of the Thirties, (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1973)

Recorded Works

  • In the Beginning: Bible Stories for Children by Sholem Asch, (Folkways Records, 1955)
  • Joseph and His Brothers: From In the Beginning by Sholem Asch, (Folkways Records, 1955)
  • Anthology of Negro Poets in the U.S.A. - 200 Years, (Folkways Records, 1955)
  • An Anthology of African American Poetry for Young People, (Folkways Records, 1990)

  

Brought to you by Paris-based African American artist Ealy Mays

 

REFERENCES / SOURCES / LINKS


Notes

  • Wynn, Linda T. (1996)."Arnaud Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973)".Profiles of African Americans in Tennessee. Annual Local Conference on Afro-American Culture and History, Tennessee State University.Archivedfrom the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  • Jones, Jacqueline C. "Arna Bontemps,"African American Authors, 1745-1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. 36–43.
  • Drew, Bernard A. "Arna Bontemps,"100 Most Popular African American Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies, Ed. Bernard A. Drew. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. 33–36. Popular Authors Series.
  • Fleming, Robert E. "Bontemps, Arna Wendell",American National Biography OnlineFeb. 2000, Access Date: Sun Jun 03 2007 00:04:41 GMT-0600http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-01895.html
  • Asante, Molefi Kete (2002).100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  • Kirkland C. Jones,Renaissance Man from Louisiana: A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1992).ISBN 0-313-28013-4
  • Charles Harold Nichols, editor, Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters, 1925–1967, (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1980). ISBN 0-396-07687-4

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Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston 

Zora Neale Hurston, photo by Carl Van Vechten (1938)

The Rebel 

ZORA NEALE HURSTON (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folkloristanthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance.  Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.

Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston (Potts). Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter.  Her mother was a schoolteacher.  She was born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891, where her father grew up and where her grandfather was the preacher of a Baptist church.  Her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-Black towns to be incorporated in the United States, when she was three.  Hurston said she always felt that Eatonville was "home" to her and sometimes claimed it as her birthplace.  Her father later became mayor of the town, which Hurston would glorify in her stories as a place where African Americans could live, as they desired, independent of white society.

In 1901, some northern schoolteachers visited Eatonville and gave Hurston a number of books that changed her and opened her mind to literature; this may be why she sometimes describes her "birth" as taking place in that year.  Hurston spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, and describes the experience of growing up in Eatonville in her 1928 essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me".

In 1904, Hurston's mother died and her father remarried to Matte Moge almost immediately, considered something of a minor scandal as it was rumored he had relations with Moge before Lucy died.  Hurston's father and new stepmother sent her away to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida, but they eventually stopped paying her tuition and the school expelled her.  She later worked as a maid to the lead singer in a traveling Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company.  In 1917, Hurston began attending Morgan Academy, the high school division of the historically African American Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland. It was at this time, and apparently to qualify for a free high-school education (as well, perhaps to reflect her literary birth), that the 26-year-old Hurston began claiming 1901 as her date of birth.  She graduated from Morgan Academy in 1918.

In 1918, Hurston began undergraduate studies at Howard University, where she became one of the earliest initiates of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and co-founded The Hilltop, the University's student newspaper.  While there she took courses in Spanish, English, Greek and public speaking and earned an Associate's Degree in 1920.  In 1921 she wrote a short story, “John Redding Goes to Sea”, which qualified her to become a member of Alain Locke's literary club, The Stylus.  Hurston left Howard in 1924 and in 1925 was offered a scholarship to Barnard College where she was the college's sole black student.  Hurston received her B.A. in anthropology in 1927, when she was 36.  While at Barnard, Hurston conducted ethnographic research with noted anthropologist Franz Boas of Columbia University.  She also worked with Ruth Benedict as well as fellow anthropology student Margaret Mead.  After graduating from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University.

 African Americans for Humanism billboard featuring Sikivu Hutchinson and Zora Neale Hurston

African Americans for Humanism billboard featuring Sikivu Hutchinson and Zora Neale Hurston

In 1927, Hurston married Herbert Sheen, a jazz musician and former classmate at Howard who would later become a physician. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in 1931. In 1939, while Hurston was working for the WPA, she married Albert Price, a 23-year-old fellow WPA employee 25 years her junior. This marriage lasted only seven months.

Hurston also enjoyed spending time in a cottage in Eau Gallie, Florida. She only lived there for very brief periods of time: early on in 1929, then later in 1951.  During the 1930s, Hurston lived in Westfield, New Jersey where she became neighbors with Langston Hughes.  Later in life, in addition to continuing her literary career, Hurston served on the faculty of North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham, North Carolina.  Continuing her work in education, in 1934 Hurston established a school of dramatic arts "based on pure Negro expression" at Bethune-Cookman University (at the time, Bethune-Cookman College) in Daytona Beach, FL.  In 1956 Hurston was bestowed the Bethune-Cookman College Award for Education and Human Relations in recognition of her vast achievements. To this day the English Department at Bethune-Cookman College remains dedicated to preserving her cultural legacy.

Anthropological and folkloric fieldwork

Hurston traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the American South, and she immersed herself in local cultural practices to conduct her anthropological research.  Her work in the South, sponsored from 1928 to 1932 by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy philanthropist, produced “Mules and Men” in 1935, often regarded as a folklore classic, as well as the base material for novels like “Jonah's Gourd Vine” published in 1934.

 Zora Neale Hurston - Women of Discovery

Zora Neale Hurston, Women of Discovery 

In 1936 and 1937 she traveled to Jamaica and to Haiti with support from the Guggenheim Foundation.  These trips inspired Hurston’s anthropological work “Tell My Horse”, published in 1938.

She also lived in Honduras, at the north coastal town of Puerto Cortés from October 1947 to February 1948.  Her trip to Central America was apparently occasioned by the idea of locating either Mayan ruins, or vestiges of some other yet to be discovered civilization.  While in Puerto Cortés, she wrote much of “Seraph on the Suwanee”, a book that had nothing to do with Honduras.  Hurston expressed interest in the poly-ethnic nature of the population in the region (many of whom, such as the Miskito Zambu and Garifuna were in fact of partial African ancestry).

Later years

In 1948, Hurston was falsely accused of molesting a ten-year-old boy, and although the case was dismissed after Hurston presented evidence that she was in Honduras when the crime supposedly occurred in the U.S., her personal life was seriously disrupted by the scandal.

Hurston spent her last decade as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers.  Her autobiography reported that she worked in a library in Cape Canaveral, Florida; although new evidence indicates she worked at the Pan Am Technical Library at Patrick Air Force Base in 1957, just prior to moving to Fort Pierce.  Here she took jobs where she could find them, including being a substitute teacher and a maid.

Death

During a period of financial and medical difficulties, Hurston was forced to enter St. Lucie County Welfare Home, where she suffered a stroke; she died of hypertensive heart disease on January 28, 1960 at age 69, and was buried at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce, Florida.  When Hurston died she was buried in an unmarked grave.  Her remains were in an unmarked grave until 1973 when African-American novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the general area where Hurston had been buried and decided to mark it as hers. 

Zora Neale Hurston  

Zora Neale Hurston 

1920s

When Hurston arrived in New York City in 1925, the Harlem Renaissance was at its peak, and she soon became one of the writers at its center.  Shortly before she entered Barnard, Hurston’s short story “Spunk” was selected for “The New Negro”, a landmark anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays focusing on African and African American art and literature.  In 1926 Hurston, together with fellow members of the Niggerati Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman, produced a literary magazine called Fire!!, which featured many of the young artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance.  In 1929, Hurston moved to Eau Gallie in Florida where she wrote, "Mules and Men" which was later published in 1935.

1930s

By the mid-1930s, Hurston had already established herself as a noteworthy writer. At that point, she’d already published several short stories as well as the critically acclaimed Mules and Men (1935), a groundbreaking work of "literary anthropology" documenting African American folklore.  During the 1930’s, she also collaborated with Langston Hughes on “Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts”, a play that was never finished, but instead published posthumously in 1991. 

In 1937, Hurston was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to conduct ethnographic research in Jamaica and Haiti. “Tell My Horse” (1938) documents her account of the fieldwork she did studying African rituals in Jamaica and voodoo rituals in Haiti. Hurston also enjoyed translating her anthropological work into the performing arts.  Most notably, her folk revue “The Great Day” premiered at the John Golden Theatre in New York.

Hurston's first three novels were also published in the 1930s: “Jonah's Gourd Vine” (1934); “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (1937), written during her fieldwork in Haiti and considered her masterwork; and “Moses, Man of the Mountain” (1939).

Zora Neale Hurston - Their Eyes Were Watching God 

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

1940s/1950s

In the 1940s Hurston's reputation grew, and her work was published in periodicals like The American Mercury and The Saturday Evening Post. Her last published novel, Seraph on the Suwanee”, known for its focus on white characters, was published in 1948.  It explored images of 'white trash' women.  Jackson (2000) argues that Hurston's meditation on abjection, waste, and the construction of class and gender identities among poor whites reflects the eugenics discourses of the 1920s.

In 1954, Hurston was assigned by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the small-town murder trial of Ruby McCollum, the prosperous black wife of the local bolita racketeer, who had killed a racist white doctor.  She also contributed to Woman in the Suwannee County Jail, a book by journalist and civil rights advocate William Bradford Huie.  In 2008, The Library of America selected excerpts from this work for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime writing.

 Zora Neale Hurston - There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you

Zora Neale Hurston, There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you

Public obscurity

Hurston's work slid into obscurity for decades, for a number of cultural and political reasons.  Many readers objected to the representation of African American dialect in Hurston's novels, given the racially charged history of dialect fiction in American literature. Her stylistic choices in terms of dialogue were influenced by her academic experiences. Thinking like a folklorist, Hurston strove to represent speech patterns of the period, which she documented through ethnographic research   For example, a character in Jonah's Gourd Vine expresses herself in this manner: "Dat's a big ole resurrection lie, Ned. Uh slew-foot, drag-leg lie at dat, and Ah dare yuh tuh hit me too. You know Ahm uh fightin' dawg and mah hide is worth money. Hit me if you dare! Ah'll wash yo' tub uh 'gator guts and dat quick." 

Several of Hurston's literary contemporaries criticized Hurston's use of dialect as a caricature of African American culture rooted in a racist tradition.  More recently, many critics have praised Hurston's skillful use of idiomatic speech.  In particular, a number of writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance were critical of Hurston's later writings, on the basis that they did not agree with, or further the position of the overall movement.  One particular criticism came from Richard Wright in his review of “Their Eyes Were Watching God”: “The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life, which is ‘quaint,’ the phase, which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the ‘superior’ race.

During the 1930s and 1940s when her work was published, the pre-eminent African American author was Richard Wright.  Unlike Hurston, Wright wrote in explicitly political terms, as someone who had become disenchanted with communism, using the struggle of African Americans for respect and economic advancement as both the setting and the motivation for his work.  Other popular African American authors of the time, such as Ralph Ellison, dealt with the same concerns as Wright.  Hurston's work, which did not engage these political issues, did not fit in with the work of other black writers who were more invested in political activism.  In 1951, for example, Hurston argued that New Deal economic support, which was seen as a good thing for African Americans, would created a harmful dependency by African Americans on the government, and that this dependency ceded too much power to politicians. 

Posthumous recognition

The article "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston", by Alice Walker, published in the March 1975 issue of Ms. magazine, revived interest in Hurston’s work.  The reemergence of Hurston's work coincided with the emergence of authors such as Toni MorrisonMaya Angelou, and Walker herself, whose works are centered on African American experiences and include, but do not necessarily focus upon, racial struggle.

Zora Neale Hurston - Eatonville Florida Plaque 

Zora Neale Hurston, Eatonville Florida Plaque

Biographies of Hurston include “Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography” by Robert Hemenway, “Wrapped in Rainbows” by Valerie Boyd, “Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit” by Deborah G. Plant, "Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade" by Virginia Lynn Moylan and “Speak So You Can Speak Again” by Hurston's niece, Lucy Anne Hurston. Her hometown of Eatonville, Florida celebrates her life in an annual festival.

In 2001, "Every Tongue Got to Confess" was published posthumously. The book was a collection of field materials Hurston had gathered in the late 1920s to create her book "Mules and Men". Originally titled "Folktales from the Gulf States", filmmaker Kristy Andersen had discovered the previously unknown collection of folk tales while researching the Smithsonian archives when they were placed in computer catalogs in 1997.

Hurston's house in Fort Pierce is a National Historic Landmark.

Zora Neale Hurston - 2003 US Stamp 

Zora Neale Hurston, 2003 US Stamp 

Fort Pierce celebrates Hurston annually through various events such as “Hattitudes”, birthday parties, and a several-day festival at the end of April known as Zora Fest. Her life and legacy are also celebrated every year at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities in Eatonville, Florida, the town that inspired her,

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Zora Neale Hurston on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

Politics

John McWhorter has called Hurston "America's favorite black conservativewhile David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito have argued that she can better be characterized as a "libertarian."  She was a Republican who was generally sympathetic to the foreign policy non-interventionism of the Old Right and a fan of Booker T. Washington's self-help politics. She disagreed with the philosophies- including Communism and the New Deal- supported by many of her colleagues in the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes, who was, in the 1930s, a supporter of the Soviet Union, praising it in several of his poems.  Despite much common ground with the Old Right in domestic and foreign policy, Hurston was not a social conservative.  Her writings show skepticism toward traditional religion and affinity for feminist individualism.  In this respect, her views were similar to two libertarian novelists who were her contemporaries: Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson.

In 1952, Hurston supported the presidential campaign of Senator Robert A. Taft.  Like Taft, Hurston was against Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies.  She also shared his opposition to Roosevelt and Truman's interventionist foreign policy.  In the original draft of her autobiography, “Dust Tracks on a Road”, Hurston compared the United States government to a "fence" in stolen goods and to a Mafia-like protection racket.  Hurston thought it ironic that, “The same people who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy ... wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals. ... We, too, consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.”  

 Zora Neale Hurston with Friends in New York City

Zora Neale Hurston, with Friends in New York City

She was scathing about those who sought "freedoms" for those abroad, but denied it to people in their home countries: “Roosevelt can call names across an ocean" for his Four Freedoms, but he did not have “the courage to speak even softly at home.”  When Truman dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, she called him “the Butcher of Asia.”

Hurston opposed the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. She felt that if separate schools were truly equal, and she believed that they were rapidly becoming so, educating black students in physical proximity to white students would not result in better education.  In addition, she worried that the demise of black schools and black teachers would make it harder to pass on cultural tradition to future generations of African-Americans.  She voiced this opposition in a letter, "Court Order Can't Make the Races Mix", that was published in the Orlando Sentinel in August 1955.  Hurston had not reversed her long-time opposition to segregation.  Rather, she feared that the Court's ruling could become a precedent for an all-powerful federal government to undermine individual liberty on a broad range of issues in the future.   Hurston also opposed preferential treatment for African-Americans, saying, “If I say a whole system must be upset for me to win, I am saying that I cannot sit in the game, and that safer rules must be made to give me a chance. I repudiate that. If others are in there, deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it, even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.”

 

 

Brought to you by Paris-based African American artist Ealy Mays

 

 

REFERENCES / SOURCES / LINKS


Selected bibliography

  • Color Struck(1925) inOpportunity Magazine, play
  • "Sweat" (1926), short story
  • "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928), essay
  • "Hoodoo in America" (1931) inThe Journal of American Folklore
  • "The Gilded Six-Bits" (1933), short story
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine(1934), novel
  • Mules and Men(1935), non-fiction
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God(1937), novel
  • Tell My Horse(1938), non-fiction
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain(1939), novel
  • Dust Tracks on a Road(1942), autobiography
  • Seraph on the Suwanee(1948), novel
  • "What White Publishers Won't Print" (1950) inNegro Digest
  • I Love Myself When I Am Laughing...and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader(edited byAlice Walker) (1979)
  • The Sanctified Church(1981)
  • Spunk: Selected Stories(1985)
  • Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life(play, withLangston Hughes; edited with introductions by George Houston Bass andHenry Louis Gates, Jr.) (1991)
  • The Complete Stories(introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke) (1995)
  • Novels & Stories: Jonah's Gourd Vine, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Moses, Man of the Mountain, Seraph on the Suwanee, Selected Stories(Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995)ISBN 978-0-940450-83-7
  • Wikipedia
  • Folklore, Memoirs, & Other Writings: Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Dust Tracks on a Road, Selected Articles(Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995)ISBN 978-0-940450-84-4
  • Barracoon(1999)
  • Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (2003)
  • Collected Plays(2008)

Film and television

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Welcome to Ealy Mays Artworks

Celebration of over 150 years of Black Literary and Artistic development in Paris

Here you will find the works of one of the most prolific African American artists. Based in Paris, France, this selection includes current masterpieces as well retrospectives from a body of over 30 years as an ethnic artist painting in the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Your choice of paintings, prints, posters, postcards, puzzles, memorabilia, T-shirts, collectibles, accessories,and more, is only a click away. Read more

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