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.
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.
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.
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.