Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Re: The Harlem Experimental Theatre

Last night I saw the new David Mamet play "Race" at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. I thought it was excellent and appropriate since I am in the Performing Arts room at the Library Hotel. Regina Andrews was a founder, the Executive Director, a playwright and an actress in the Harlem Experimental Theatre from 1928 - 1932. The philosophy of the group was produce plays by both White and Black playwrights like the above production of The Duchess Sayers Her Prayers by White playwright Mary Cass Canfield. Regina is on the right. Their plays by African American playwrights tackled race-related themes like Mamet's play "Race."

Re: The New York Public Library

I am writing in the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwartzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street--right around the corner from my hotel. I am standing in front of either the Patience or Fortitude lion. Regina interviewed for a job at the New York Public Library in this building in 1923. I found out that the lions originally had different names but were renamed by New York City's Mayor Fiorello La Guardia during the Depression to inspire New Yorkers to have patience and fortitude during those difficult times.

Re: Writer's Retreat in NYC

Once again I'm back at my favorite New York City hotel, the Library Hotel, for writer's retreat. Each room corresponds with a Dewey Decimal category. I'm currently staying in the performing arts room which is appropriate because Regina Andrews was part of the Little Theater Movement during the Harlem Renaissance. The room is filled with books about the performing arts including an Alvin Ailey biography.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Writer's Retreat

Sometimes I need to change environments in order to write. I spent this weekend in a local hotel to work on some sections of the manuscript, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. I also read other biographies for inspiration. I've recently completed Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon who presented at the Seminar on Gender History that I attended at Radcliffe a few years ago. I enjoyed reading her gender analysis of Lange's life and career. I just finished reading Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D. G. Kelley. This book was so descriptive about Monk's music that I bought both a CD and a vinyl record of his music!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Re: A presentation

On Wednesday, November 18, 2009 I had an opportunity to present my project to graduate students and faculty through a seminar, Program in Gender and Women's History, in the Department of History at the University of WI - Madison. This seminar is organized by the students who are interested in discussing gender-related issues. I really enjoyed talking about the project, "New Negro Woman: Harlem Renaissance Librarian Regina Andrews." I got terrific questions, feedback, and comments.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interesting, Related Links

I often come across interesting links related to my research and wanted to share some of them:

American Legacy magazine is one of my favorites. They like to publish articles about unsung African Americans.

The Dwyer Cultural Center celebrates Harlem.

Sources related to Chicago's African American history:

Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Black Chicago's Hidden Archives

The Black Metropolis Research Consortium

Finally, an excellent organization, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, promotes and supports United States history. I received a fellowship from this institution a few years ago to support my research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Dorothy West and Jessie Fauset

For inspiration for my own project, I attended a lecture on author Dorothy West (often associated with the Harlem Renaissance) by Associate Professor Cherene Sherrard-Johnson. The lecture was sponsored by the University of Wisconsin - Madison's Center for Research on Gender & Women. Last year Sherrard-Johnson was the recipient of the Feminist Scholars Fellowship that I received this year. She is currently writing a manuscript about West's life. Perhaps West knew Regina Andrews. Sherrard-Johnson also recently edited a book by Jessie Fauset who was a friend of Regina Andrews and was her maid of honor. Maybe Fauset shared a copy of this manuscript with Andrews for feedback...

Hubert Harrison Lecture

I attended a lecture on Harlem radical Hubert Harrison by independent scholar Jeffrey Perry at the end of October. Harrison has been forgotten and this new, excellent biography, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism 1883-1918, allows a new generation of people to get to know his story. When I came across this biography several months ago I was pleased to discover a market for forgotten people like Regina Andrews.

Even more exciting, Harrison and Regina Andrews knew each other through the 135th Street Branch Library. Harrison was an advocate of public libraries and he lectured at the North Harlem Community Forum about literature. Andrews was a member of the Forum and publicized the lectures.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wilberforce Carnegie Library

This library was a gift from Andrew Carnegie and dedicated in 1907. When Regina attended Wilberforce the library was open six days a week and contained 10,500 bound volumes, journals, newspapers, and spacious reading rooms with modern furnishings. Regina worked as a library assistant in this library. The building now houses the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center administrative offices.

Kezia Emery Hall

Regina attended Wilberforce 90 years ago from 1919 - 1920. During that time, first-year female students were assigned to one of two dorms. I don't know where Regina lived but one of the dorms still exists. It now belongs to Central State University and is being restored. It cost $6 a term to rent a room in the dorm and $3 for fuel and light. The colonial style Emery Hall was built in 1913 for $50,000 including the furnishing and fixtures. According to the 1919/1920 Wilberforce Catalogue, Emery Hall had "all the modern conveniences, heated by hot water and lighted by electricity and gas. It accommodates eighty girls." The dorm included "laundries, kitchens, and dining rooms. There are also parlors and reception rooms." Additionally, there were study rooms and typewriting rooms equipped with Remingtons and Underwoods.

Wilberforce University

I had the opportunity to visit Wilberforce University last week while attending and presenting at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Wilberforce is located in Xenia, Ohio a little over an hour away from Cincinnati. My friend, Dr. Furaha Norton from Cincinnati, drove and a kind Wilberforce employee, Officer Herman B. Webb (see picture), shared his knowledge of the history of Wilberforce and the nearby Central State University. Officer Webb also knew the location of the historic buildings that I wanted to see.

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 2009

Nothing to report during the month of September. I've been working on revising my manuscript and applying for funding to support the project. I did recently buy a new desk (see picture), met with friends to discuss projects, read a chapter for a friend from her book manuscript, and ordered Regina Andrews' passport information from the State Department--$60!. I ordered an oral history of Regina's former co-worker, Pura Belpre White (the first Puerto Rican librarian at the New York Public Library) from Columbia University's Oral History Research Office but didn't find anything related to Regina in her oral history. They did remain lifelong friends. This week I head to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend a conference. I hope to visit Regina's alma mater Wilberforce if time permits.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Discovery

University of Wisconsin librarian Emilie Ngo Nguidjol informed me that we had access to the ProQuest database, Black Studies Center, for a trial period. While searching the historic newspaper, Baltimore's Afro-American, I finally discovered when and why Regina's parents divorced. This article is from the September 30, 1911 issue.

Regina was only 10 years old when her parents divorced. She was sent to live with her maternal grandparents for several years in Normal, Illinois after the divorce.

Speed Dating Is Not New

I learned that Wilberforce University, the historically Black institution that Regina attended in 1919, provided carefully monitored social events in the late 1800s. Once a month students participated in a "period of free conversation" where male and female students could talk one-on-one for five minutes before rotating to the next person. This arrangement allowed female students lacking in personality an opportunity to meet male students (not my words but the words of the author, Frederick A. McGinnis, author of A History and Interpretation of Wilberforce University, 1941).

This is a picture of the Carnegie Library at Wilberforce where Regina obtained her first library job as a library assistant.

The Documentary

I didn't do much work on the documentary during my time in Chicago since my focus was on the book, but I did watch two documentaries about African American women: A litany for survival: The life and work of Audre Lorde and Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100. Ruth Ellis graduated from high school in 1919 like Regina Andrews. According to Living with Pride, only 5% of African American women graduated from high school that year.

I also found two books that will help me with my documentary trailer and licensing images for historical documentaries: Trailer Mechanics by Fernanda Rossi and Archival Storytelling: A Filmaker's Guide to Finding, Using, and Licensing Third-Party Visuals and Music.

Back in Madison, WI

I've returned from my writing retreat in the Hyde Park section of Chicago. It was very productive! I was so inspired by being there and was able to accomplish a lot of progress on my second draft of the book manuscript.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Regina's Mother

I have found new information that puts Regina's mother, Margaret Simons Anderson Moore in a new light. I must admit that I initially thought that she was a pampered wife who did her art as a hobby. As I've located more news articles about her I have found that she was a serious artist who promoted her work, worked as an art instructor and was a club woman. African American club women were commonly well-educated and financially well-off women who volunteered their time to help uplift the race. Margaret hosted the initial meeting of the Necessity Club in her home at 530 E. 45th Street in 1916. By 1918, Margaret served as the President--but there was controversy... (you'll have to read my book!).

Regenstein Library

I spend the majority of my time in Hyde Park here in the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library. Because I'm a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin I have access to their library resources, can check out books and use the Internet (I don't have Internet access in my rental--which is probably for the best so that I can write). It's right around the corner from where I'm staying.

Hyde Park Historical Society

I went to the Hyde Park Historical Society on Saturday, August 7. They're only open for 2 hours on Saturday and Sunday. I didn't find anything of value there but I had a good conversation with the volunteer worker at the Society. He was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in Sociology in the 1950s. The Society is located in a former train depot.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hyde Park - Homes & Schools

Yesterday I visited the homes where Regina lived as a child and a young adult and the junior high school and high school that she attended (Wendell Phillips and Hyde Park High School). One of her homes, 530 East 45th Street was incorrectly identified in the Cook County tax database. My pictures can't do justice to Hyde Park H.S.--it's truly a magnificent building that takes up almost the entire block--it wouldn't fit into my picture. The final picture is the home that I'm staying in with the large tree blocking the entrance.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hyde Park - August 2009

Arrived in Chicago for my month-long retreat in Hyde Park. I love the apartment and took pictures of the inside but not the outside since it was raining. I already located two coffee shops, the famous 57th Street Bookstore (but resisted buying any books), and I worked at the desk in the living room this morning.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hyde Park - August 2009

Yesterday I sublet a one-bedroom apartment in the Hyde Park section of Chicago (where Regina Andrews' was born and raised) for the month of August as a writer's retreat. While there I also intend to conduct research at the Chicago History Museum, the Newberry Library, the Hyde Park Historical Society and the Special Collections of the Chicago Public Library. I also want to take a trip to Normal, Illinois where Regina spent several years living with her maternal grandparents.

According to the landlord, the apartment is in a 1906 vintage Howard Van Doren Shaw house (I don't know who he is but looked him up on Wikipedia). I'll take pictures when I move in. The home is on the same block as Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House (I know who he is).

I'll work on my biography and photograph places in Hyde Park where Regina lived, worked and went to school for the documentary.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hyde Park

Yesterday I went on an informative tour of Hyde Park that mixed history with present day stories about their most famous resident, Barack Obama. The tour took us by his home (we weren't able to linger due to the heavy security) and by the barbershop where he would get his hair cut. The tour guide was the wonderful Christoper Benson, an associate professor at the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign's Department of African American Studies and Journalism. Here is his recent article about Hyde Park published in Chicago magazine. The tour really gave me a sense of where Regina Andrews came from.

Here's a picture of Regina from the 1918 Hyde Park High School Yearbook.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicago (Hyde Park)

One idea that came from the Creative Non-Fiction course was to continue to move forward by doing a variety of things related to our projects. The instructor suggested that I go to Chicago to visit some of the places where Regina lived, worked, etc. I had planned to go at some point but I just found the perfect opportunity. The Chicago History Museum is giving a 4-hour bus tour on Saturday, June 27th. Hyde Park is the section of Chicago where Regina lived as a little girl. She's a graduate of Hyde Park High School--also attended by Amelia Earhart.

I was able to obtain pictures of the two homes where she lived from the Cook County Assessors website: 530 E. 45th Street and 4609 Vincennes Ave.

Association for the Study of African American Life and History

My proposal,“The evening under the stars:” The Cold War Adventures of a Negro Librarian, was accepted for the 2009 Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History from September 30 - October 4, 2009. I'm looking forward to my presentation and to attending the other sessions.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Re: Creative Non-Fiction class

Last week I took a course through the University of Wisconsin's Writers-By-The-Lake program. It was inspiring! I got a lot of feedback from the instructor and the other participants and good ideas about how to improve my manuscript, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. I would highly recommend this instructor, Nancy Beckett, and the program,

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Harlem Renaissance Office

Here are pictures of the office that I devoted to this project. It was inspired by my stay in a Harlem B&B. I bought a secretary desk, an old-fashion record player, phone, etc.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sabbatical Year

From June 2009 - August 2010 I'll be on sabbatical thanks to generous support from the University of Wisconsin - Madison's Faculty Sabbatical Program and a Feminist Scholars Fellowship from the university's Women's Studies Research Center. I'll spend my sabbatical time revising my current draft of the biography and working on my documentary film.

Summer 2007

One key turning point in the project was my attendance at the Schlesinger Library 2007 Summer Seminar on Gender History Writing Past Lives: Biography as History
June 24–29, 2007 at Radcliffe where I had the opportunity to present my research to history scholars in a seminar session. During the morning sessions there were panels of famous women historians presenting their research. It was a really influential experience.


My first article from the project, "Breaking the Color Barrier: Regina Andrews and the New York Public Library," was published in the journal Libraries & the Cultural Record.

November 2008

On Friday, November 7th, I was on a panel, "Perspectives on the Library Past" with my colleagues where I presented my work on Regina Andrews.

April 2009

On Saturday, April 4, I presented my paper, "'We must be more than librarians': Regina Andrews and the Harlem Experimental Theatre" on a panel, "Resisting Racism in Segregated America: Women Librarians and the Politics of Print Culture" at the 33rd Wisconsin Women's Studies and 4th LGBTQ Conferences 2009 at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. It was a fantastic conference and I attended many great sessions.

March 2009

I attended the Black Women in the Ivory Tower conference at my alma mater Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. There was a History terrific panel. I learned a great deal by watching these women present their historical research paper. Later that month I attended the Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) conference in Bremen, Germany. I attended many panels and keynote addresses but I was most interested in the two sessions about Black feminist theory since that's the theoretical framework I'm using for my biography. I was also interested in going to Bremen because it's where Regina Andrews went during her first trip abroad. Here is a picture of Regina in Bremen--she's the shorter woman in the middle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

January 2009 - Los Angeles

I was contacted by Regina Andrews' family members in the fall of 2008. Regina had an older brother Maurice and the people who contacted me were his grandchildren. I took the opportunity to visit the family in Los Angeles in January when school was not in session. I had a wonderful time. First I met with the grandchildren and their mother (Maurice Anderson's daughter!) for dinner and then the grandson invited to his home in Baldwin Hills where I met great grandchildren and other relatives. The following day I videotaped Maurice's daughter and granddaughter about their experiences with Regina Andrews. Both women knew her at different times in her life. Finally I was out of the archives and meeting with real people!

December 2008

During this New York City trip I stayed at the Library Hotel, a boutique hotel around the corner from the famous 42nd Street Library on Fifth Avenue. I was in the Poetry Dewey decimal room. I searched the National Council of Women of the United States collection on microfiche at the NYPL Manuscript and Archives Division. Andrews was a long-time member of this women's organization in the 1950s and 1960s. I searched the Columbiana Collection at Columbia University. Andrews took courses in their Library School during 1927 - 1928. I had several photographs digitized from Andrews' collection at the Schomburg to include in a trailer for the documentary I am working on. I hope to be able to post the trailer soon.

Summer 2008

The last site I visited was the apartment building where Andrews lived at 405 Edgecombe Avenue in the penthouse. Nearby 409 Edgecombe Avenue was where the elites of Harlem resided.

Summer 2008

I caught a train at Grand Central Station to Andrews' weekend retreat and eventual retirement home in Lake Mahopac, NY. The Andrews purchased this home in 1941. It is a 1799 New England style home on 34 acres.

Summer 2008

I visited the 115th Street Branch Library where she became the first Negro Supervising Librarian in 1938.

Summer 2008

In August 2008 I visited several sites where Andrews lived including 1945 Seventh Avenue, where she was married on April 14, 1926 in the apartment of her maid of honor, noted Harlem Renaissance writer Jessie Fauset. Andrews and her husband, attorney William T. Andrews, Jr. moved into the building after their wedding.

December 2006

When I returned to the east coast for the holidays I made a trip to New York City to photograph a place where Regina Andrews lived and worked. 580 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem has been called one of the most famous addresses during the Harlem Renaissance. A widely published photograph of Langston Hughes with other famous men was taken at a rooftop party at 580 where Andrews and her two roommates hosted a salon for Harlem Renaissance artists.

Although Andrews worked in a number of New York Public Library branches, she spent a long time at the Washington Heights branch.

Spring Break 2006

During spring break from UCLA's Department of Information Studies, I traveled to Harlem with my research assistant Dalena Hunter to search Regina Andrews' papers and photograph and print collections. We stayed in a magnificent bread & breakfast brownstone in Harlem that was decorated in Harlem Renaissance style--an inspiration for my future office!

December 2005 - New York City

Regina Andrews' papers and photograph and manuscript collection is located at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. During the winter break I visited my family in New Jersey and took a quick trip to the Schomburg to check out the extent of her collection.

The Beginning

In September 2004 I moved to Los Angeles to collect data for a research project funded by the Ford Foundation's Postdoctoral Fellowship for Minorities about the role of a public library in the life of a middle-class African American and Latino community. During 2005 I came across a research article, "The place to go: The 135th Street Branch Library and the Harlem Renaissance," in the journal Library Quarterly by Sarah Anderson. The article described how the supervising librarian, Ernestine Rose, hired several Negro women to work in the branch. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about these women and one woman in particular stood out -- Regina Andrews.