Thursday, December 13, 2012

The full documentary - Harlem Renaissance Librarian: Regina Andrews

The full documentary for Harlem Renaissance Librarian: Regina Andrews (27 minutes).

The Trailer

Here is the trailer for the documentary Harlem Renaissance Librarian: Regina Andrews

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The final chapter, Chapter Eight - Endings

Regina retires but remains active in community events in New York City and in her retirement community of Lake Mahopac, New York.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chapter Seven - International Flights

Regina traveled to several continents during the 1950s and 1960s to meet with women to discuss issues like education and librarianship.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chapter Six - The New York Public Library

Regina Andrews worked at the New York Public Library from the early 1920s until her mandatory retirement in the mid-1960s.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chapter 5 - The Harlem Experimental Theatre

This digital story chronicles Regina Andrews' involvement with the Harlem Experimental Theatre during the Harlem Renaissance.

The Wisconsin Book Panel

Yesterday I was on a panel, Recovering Black Women Writers from the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond, for the Wisconsin Book Festival with my friends professors Cherene Sherrard-Johnson and Tracy Curtis. I shared my work on Regina Andrews. We were quite pleased to have a large turnout for our session and I always welcome the opportunity to talk about Regina.

Audre Lorde and Regina Andrews

I was invited to give a talk about Audre Lorde's library career. During my research I discovered that Audre Lorde was a clerk at the New York Public Library from 1955 - 1958 and she clerked at the Washington Heights Branch in 1956 when Regina Andrews was the Supervising Librarian there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Clara Stanton Jones

One of the pioneering African American librarians mentioned in the introduction of my book about Regina was Clara Stanton Jones. In 1976 Jones became the first African American President of the American Library Association. Jones was also the Director of the Detroit Public Library--another first for an African American in 1970. She was included on a poster for an exhibit in 2012 about Pioneering African American Librarians displayed in my department, the School of Library & Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Jones died late last month at the age of 99.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chapter Four - Bill

This chapter describes Regina's romantic life and culminates in her marriage to William "Bill" Trent Andrews, Jr. Her marriage would last for 58 years until Bill's death in 1984. Regina was eighty-three years old.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Harlem Renaissance Friend's Biography

I was excited to find out that there is a new biography of poet Countee Cullen published by the University of Chicago Press. I just downloaded it this morning onto my iPad. Cullen often stopped by the apartment that Regina shared with Louella Tucker and Ethel Ray at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue.

Ethel recalled, “…I would say that Countee Cullen used to drop by most frequently on his way home from school.... He was always so unassuming and charming, a fine young man, and we were only too happy to have him come, whatever we were doing we would stop and listen to it.” 

Ethel further recalled, “Yes, we knew Countee and we saw a great deal of him…he came by quite often to read parts of poems that he was in the process of writing. And he would come in and say, ‘would you like to hear what I’ve written’ or ‘do you have time to listen to something that I’ve written."

(from: Ethel Ray Nance, interview by Anne Allen Shockley, tape recording, San Francisco, CA., 18 November 1970 and Nashville, TN., 23 December 1970. Black Oral History Collection, Fisk University, Nashville, TN., 10 and 53.)

A New Biography

Since I began writing about Regina Andrews, a woman who has been lost to history, I have been interested in reading about other "obscure" figures in African American history to examine how others conduct this important recovery work. I recently read a biography about Jane Bolin who her biographer calls the first African American woman judge. This book was published by the University of Illinois Press and I am proud to say that I just received a contract from the same press for my biography about Regina Andrews.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chapter Two - Regina Andrews' Digital Story

Chapter Two continues with more about Regina's childhood, college experience and her first professional library job.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A digital story about Regina Andrews: Chapter One

This semester I am working with a student at my university through the Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program. Al is editing digital stories about Regina Andrews' life. I hope to create eight digital stories this semester representing each chapter in my book manuscript. Chapter One debuts today about Regina's family.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I recently watched the PBS American Experience documentary about Jesse Owens. It has inspired me to continue working on the Regina Andrews' documentary this summer.

Here is an interesting new publication about Black librarians in the United States nearly one hundred years after Regina Andrews entered the profession.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Zora Neale Hurston

Last weekend I had brunch at Eatonville, a Washington, DC restaurant named after the birthplace of folklorist and writer Zora Neale Hurston.

In 1924 Hurston’s story Drenched in Light was published in Opportunity magazine after she won one of the writing prizes. Hurston lived in Florida at the time and the editor Charles S. Johnson encouraged her to move to New York City. He suggested that Hurston contact his assistant Ethel Ray (Regina’s roommate), assuring her that she would be warmly welcomed at her apartment. Hurston ended up staying on their couch when she first arrived in New York City.* Ethel recollected that, “Zora could tell a good story…pretended that she couldn’t talk English and so she was passed off as an African and was permitted to stay at this hotel. It gave us a good laugh.” Later, “Zora was a person rather hard to keep within bounds, you had to ride herd on her a bit, so she stayed with us at the time. We felt responsible in making certain that she was going to keep these appointments (at Barnard College for a scholarship) because with her if something else interesting came up, off she was.”**

* Valerie Boyd, Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (Great Britain: Virago, 2003).

Ethel Ray Nance, interview by Anne Allen Shockley, tape recording, San Francisco, CA., 18 November 1970 and Nashville, TN., 23 December 1970. Black Oral History Collection, Fisk University, Nashville, TN.

Alexandria, Virginia

A year after Regina Andrews became the first African American to head a branch of the New York Public Library there was a sit-in at a public library in Alexandria, Virginia in 1939. African Americans were not allowed to use the public library so several men (William Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray and Clarence Strange) staged a sit-in to protest the policy and were arrested (see picture on the right). This was organized by a young African American lawyer Samuel Tucker (Otto's brother). Instead of integrating the library, the city created a Negro branch--separate and unequal. Samuel Tucker refused to use the new branch. Last weekend I was in Alexandria and took pictures of the original library and the former Negro branch which is now a museum. For more about the sit-in.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Black Library Pioneers

Project Assistants Dawn Wing and Mel Nicholas in my department, the School of Library & Information Studies, at the University of Wisconsin - Madison made an exhibit featuring pioneering Black librarians that went up today. Besides a timeline of key events, they included several biographies of key figures including the bibliophile Arturo Schomburg, and librarians Nella Larsen, Audre Lorde and Belle da Costa Greene.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Carl Van Vechten

Photo: Regina is in the front in the middle wearing the lightest colored dress. Louella Tucker is behind her on Regina's left (our right) and Ethel Ray is on our far left behind Langston Hughes. This is on the rooftop of their salon at 580 St. Nicholas Avene. Source: Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in BlackCulture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Regina’s Harlem Renaissance roommate Ethel Ray Nance recorded two oral histories. The following vignette describes a visit by Carl Van Vechten and “the girls” refers to Regina and Louella Tucker:

“I remember Van Vechten coming into our apartment this one evening and inquiring who was the hostess, well, the girls didn’t move, so I moved and he handed me this bottle of some exquisite wine. I took it to the kitchen, which was on the side of the living room and just left it there. Then later on when it was to be served, two of the women…their names escaped me not entirely, but we’ll just skip that, refused it when we passed the wine glasses. And then almost immediately, they came out in the kitchen and asked, ‘may we have some’ and I said ‘no,’ (Laughingly) ‘if you’re not willing to accept it in front of the group, I’m sorry.’"*

* Source: Ethel Ray Nance, interview by Anne Allen Shockley, tape recording, San Francisco, CA., 18 November 1970 and Nashville, TN., 23 December 1970. Black Oral History Collection, Fisk University, Nashville, TN., 32.

Carl Van Vechten

Emily Bernard’s new book, Carl Van Vechten & the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black & White (Yale University Press, 2012), is about the controversial patron of black artists. Van Vechten visited Regina’s famous salon at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue where attendees included Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Some have suggested that Regina was the model for the librarian character Mary Love in his infamous novel, Nigger Heaven. He was banned from their salon after its publication in 1926. Regina’s roommates included Ethel Ray (later Nance) who worked for Charles Johnson at Opportunity magazine but almost nothing is known about the third roommate, Louella Tucker, although Van Vechten’s social diary entry provides one interesting tidbit:

Monday, 26 January 1925
…Then to the James Weldon Johnson’. Walrond brings three girls in, including the wonderful Louella Tucker who dances the Charleston more wonderfully than I’ve ever seen it danced.*

Several months later…

Thursday, 21 May 1925…At 10.30 went to Regina Anderson’s birthday party. Louella Tucker, Eric Walrond, Ethel Ray...*

*Source: Carl Van Vechten, The splendid drunken twenties: Selections from the daybooks, 1922-1930, ed. Bruce Kellner (Chicago, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2003),72 and 85-86.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Re: African American Women's Biography

I hope in the future to teach a course called African American Women's Biography. Students would write an introduction or book proposal about their subject and use images, music, and narration to create short digital stories. Part of the course would require students to read existing biographies and I just learned about two new ones: Remaking Race and History: The Sculpture of Meta Warrick by Renee Ater and Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage by Vincent Carretta. I would also discuss my own biography of Regina Andrews and the process of creating it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Re: A New Documentary

A friend recently told me about a new documentary exploring the life of self-identified "black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior" Audre Lorde--the subject of my next project that focuses on her little-known career as a librarian. The film, Audre Lorde -- The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 explores her years spent in Germany which is related to my aforementioned interest in Black women traveling abroad and in making a documentary about Regina Andrews.

I recently received a grant that will allow me to travel this summer to explore Audre Lorde's archives at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, New York.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Re: Another Biography

As I write Regina Andrews' biography I read other biographies for inspiration and I am particularly interested in biographies of other "obscure" African American women to see how the authors describe the significance of their subject's lives. I recently read an interesting biography, Thyra J. Edwards: Black Activist in the Global Freedom Struggle by Gregg Andrews (University of Missouri Press, 2011). I am also interested in the international travel experiences of African American women--one of the things that interested me about Regina Andrews. I was fascinated to find that Edwards traveled and studied in Denmark in the 1930s--a country that I have recently, frequently visited.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Re: New Biographies

There are several new biographies about African Americans who are loosely connected with Regina Andrews: Literary Sisters: Dorothy West and Her Circle, A Biography of the Harlem Renaissance by Verner Mitchell & Cynthia Davis (Rutgers University Press, 2011), Eugene Kinckle Jones, The National Urban League Black Social Work, 1910 - 1940 by Felix L. Armfield (University of Illinois Press, 2012), & Dorothy West's Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color by Cherene Sherrard-Johnson (Rutgers University Press, 2012).

Although I have not come across anything to suggest that Regina knew writer Dorothy West or her cousin poet Helene Johnson, they moved in the same circles. The cousins were friends of Zora Neale Hurston (who stayed on Regina's couch when she first moved to New York City), actress Edna Lewis (who starred in a play with Regina) and actress Rose McClendon who was the executive director of the Harlem Experimental Theatre group that Regina co-founded.

Regina cited Eugene Kinckle Jones as an influence on her career and he advocated on her behalf along with W.E.B. DuBois in her fight against the New York Public Library. Regina was also an active member of the National Urban League under Jones, Lester Granger, and Whitney Young.

I've read the first two biographies and have pre-ordered Sherrard-Johnson's. I look forward to reading another biography about African Americans living extraordinary lives during the last century.