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Ann and Samuel Charters Archive of the Harlem Renaissance

Identifier: 2010-0116

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the published work of writers and recording artists of the Harlem Renaissance through the poetry, novels, plays and music that emerged between 1917 and 1934, a period in American history characterized by an “unprecedented mobilization of talent and group support in the service of a racial arts and letters movement,” according to historian and author David Levering Lewis. Assembled by Ann and Samuel Charters, the collection includes works by Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, Rudolph Fisher, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, and George Schuyler, as well as original pamphlets, periodicals, audio recordings and reference sources.

In addition to first editions of novels, the collection contains rare periodicals that document several young poets’ first appearance in print. The November 1924 issue of the The American Mercury features Countee Cullen’s “The Shroud of Color” and four blues by Langston Hughes, including “Hard Luck”, “Po’ Boy Blues”, “Red Roses” and “Suicide”, can be found in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse from November 1926. The collection also includes groundbreaking anthologies such as Alain Locke’s The New Negro published in 1925 and Plays of Negro Life published in 1927. With illustrations by Aaron Douglas, Plays of Negro Life offers readers “Twenty Contemporary Plays of the Contemporary Negro Theater”, photographs of scenes from current productions of plays, and a chronology and bibliography of American drama with African-American themes.

Students interested in artwork, illustration, and book design that is representative of the early era of publishing the Harlem Renaissance writers, will find ample materials in the collection valuable for research. The work of Aaron Douglas, Charles Cullen, Prentiss Taylor and others can be found on the original book jackets and book covers, as well as in the periodicals, that comprise the collection. The premier issue of Wallace Thurman’s short-lived literary quarterly Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists published in 1926 features the cover design, page decorations and drawings of Aaron Douglas, next to poetry contributions by Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, Helene Johnson, Edward Silvera, and Waring Cuney, and a short play and often-anthologized story “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston.

Among the many recordings in the collection are record albums featuring poets reading their work and a rare Black Swan recording of Marianna Johnson singing “The Rosary” and “Sorter Miss You”, accompanied by the Black Swan Symphony Orchestra recorded between 1921 and 1922. Black Swan Records, established in January 1921 as a subsidiary of the Pace Phonograph Corporation, was the first record label owned and managed by African-Americans and issued material recorded exclusively by African-American musicians. Board members of the Pace Phonograph Corporation included W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson. The record label was named after the opera singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, nicknamed “the Black Swan”. The Black Swan catalog included European classical, jazz and blues. Fletcher Henderson served as the house accompanist. In March 1923 the Pace Phonograph Corp. was renamed the Black Swan Phonograph Co. This was the last year any new records were issued, although Pace reissued Black Swan recordings through 1926.

This collection of works by Harlem Renaissance writers of the period extends the Archives' holdings of first editions and limited and small press editions by emerging poets. It also strengthens affiliations with the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture, established at the University of Connecticut in 2000.


  • 1903-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1921-1935


27 Volumes

10 item

Language of Materials


File Plan

ARNA BONTEMPS God Sends Sunday. New York; Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1931. First edition. The author's first novel and first published book. Dodd call number: A10452

COUNTEE CULLEN The American Mercury, Vol. III, No. 11, November, 1924. Contains the poem "The Shroud of Color" by Countee P. Cullen. It was the young student's first appearance in print. Dodd call number: C10800

Color. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1925. First edition, later printing, with dust jacket and profusely illustrated by Charles Cullen (no relation). Dodd call number: A10451

Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Volume 29, Number 11, November, 1926. Contains two poems by Countee Cullen, "Two Thoughts of Death" and "The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth," under the title Then. See also Langston Hughes.

Ed. and with an introduction. Caroling Dusk, An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1927. First edition, later printing, with dust jacket and some page decorations by Aaron Douglas. Dodd call number: A10450

The Black Christ & Other Poems. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1929. First edition, later printing, with dusk jacket and illustrated by Charles Cullen. This copy is signed "Cordially, Countee Cullen." Dodd call number: A10456

W. E. B. Du BOIS The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A. C. McClure & Co., 1903. Second edition, published six weeks after the first printing. Dodd call number: A10449

JESSIE FAUSET The Chinaberry Tree. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1931 First edition. Dodd call number: A10441

RUDOLPH FISHER The Walls of Jericho. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928 First edition. The writer's first novel. The novel concludes with a glossary of terms and words used in the novel: "An Introduction to Contemporary Harlemese”. Dodd call number: A10442

MARCUS GARVEY The Tragedy of White Injustice. New York: Privately published by Amy Jacques Garvey, 1927. A rare pamphlet, one of a small series published by Mrs. Garvey. Dodd call number: WPS 3736

LANGSTON HUGHES Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, November, 1926. See full listing under Countee Cullen. Four blues by Hughes are included: "Hard Luck," "Po' Boy Blues," "Red Roses," and "Suicide."

Scottsboro Limited, Four Poems and a Play in Verse. New York: The Golden Stair Press, 1932. First edition, with illustrations by Prentiss Taylor. Dodd call number: WPS 3735

The Ways of White Folks. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934. First edition. Dodd call number: A10443

Goodbye Christ. A contemporary reprinting of a leaflet advertising a "Book and Author Luncheon" to be held in Pasadena, California, November 15, 1940. Dodd call number: WPS3737

Black Misery. New York: Paul S. Eriksson, Inc., 1969. First edition. Hughes' final book, published posthumously. With illustrations by Arouni. Dodd call number: Boyson 6228

For additional Langston Hughes titles relating more closely to African American musical culture see the Dodd Center's Archive of African American Music and Culture.

ZORA NEALE HURSTON Jonah's Gourd Vine. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1934. First edition. The writer's first novel and first published book. Dodd call number: A10444

Dust Tracks on a Road, An autobiography Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1942. First edition, in dust jacket. Dodd call number: A10448

Related Items Zora Neale Hurston, A Life in Letters. ed. with introduction by Carla Kaplan, New York: Doubleday, 2002. First edition. An indispensable collection of Hurston's letters from 1918 to 1959, With a chronology of her life. Dodd call number: A10458

Speak, So You Can Speak Again, The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Doubleday, 2004. This document of the life of Hurston was produced by Lucy Anne Hurston and the Estate of Zora Neale Hurston. It contains facsimiles of letters and manuscripts by Hurston, unpublished poems, and a CD of Hurston speaking and singing African American songs she collected as part of her field studies. Dodd call number: D2241

Two additional titles by Hurston, Tell My Horse, Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica, and Every Tongue Got to Confess, Negro Folk Tales from the Gulf States, are archived in the Dodd Center's Archive of African American Music and Culture.

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON St. Peter Relates an Incident, Selected Poems. New York: The Viking Press, 1935. First edition, in dust jacket. Dodd call number: C10779

NELLA LARSEN Passing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1929. "First and Second Printings before Publication." Dodd call number: A10447

ALAIN LOCKE Ed. The New Negro, An Interpretation. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1925. First edition. Includes book decorations and portraits by Winold Reiss. This copy lacks the portrait of Locke. Dodd call number: C10775

Ed. with Montgomery Gregory Plays of Negro Life. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1927. First edition. "Twenty Contemporary Plays of the Contemporary Negro Theater." With dust jacket, illustrations, and page decorations by Aaron Douglas, also photographs of scenes from current productions of the plays. The volume includes a chronology and bibliography of American drama with African American themes. Dodd call number: C10778

CLAUDE McKAY The Liberator Vol. 4, No.3, March, 1921. McKay is listed as an editor on the masthead, and his poem "The Easter Flower" is included. Dodd call number: XA 1.31 no. 141

Harlem Shadows. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922. First edition. Although this was McKay's third collection of poetry, it was the first to take Harlem as its setting. It contains probably his most often anthologized poem "If We Must Die." Dodd call number: A10446

Home to Harlem. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1928. First edition. Dodd call number: A10454

GEORGE SCHUYLER Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1931. First edition, in dust jacket. The author's second and final novel. Dodd call number: A10455

WALLACE THURMAN Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists. Facsimile edition of this short-lived literary quarterly originally published in 1926. Thurman was the editor of the "Premier Issue" of this crucial anthology of younger writers of the Harlem Renaissance and also contributed a "Harlem Sketch" and an editorial comment. Thurman's associate editors were Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Bennett, Richard Bruce, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, and John Davis, who also contributed most of the anthology's content. A selection of poetry included writing by Countee Cullen, Edward Silvera, Langston Hughes, Helene Johnson, Waring Cuney, Arna Bontemps and Lewis Alexander. Aaron Douglas contributed the cover design, page decorations, and three drawings. Hurston's contributions were a short play and her often anthologized story "Sweat." Despite the quality of the contributions and its challenging editorial stance the Quarterly failed to find readers and this was its only issue. Dodd call number: D2244

Negro Life in New York's Harlem, a Lively Picture of a Popular and Interesting Section. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Publications, c. 1928. This pamphlet, No. 494 in a popular series of informal introductions to American scenes and events, was Thurman's first publication under his own name. Dodd call number: WF242

The Blacker the Berry. New York: The Macaulay Company, 1929. First edition of the author's first novel. Dodd call number: A10453 JEAN TOOMER Cane. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1923. First edition, second printing. Dodd call number: A10445

WALTER WHITE Flight New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926. First edition. The writer's second novel. Dodd call number: A10457

RELATED ITEMS Kornweibel, Jr. No Crystal Stair, Black Life and The Messenger, 1917-1928. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975. First Edition. The Messenger was an important predecessor to the ferment of the Harlem Renaissance, and its pages were open to news and contributions by Renaissance writers. It survived for eleven years as the official publication of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and its pages mirrored the struggle for racial justice and solidarity among working peoples in America. Dodd call number: C10776

Thygesen, Helge, Mark Berresford and Russ Schor Black Swan, The Record Label of the Harlem Renaissance. Nottingham, England: VJM Publications, 1996. First edition. The book includes a history of Pace's company, a complete listing of every release, and it is lavishly illustrated with photographs of the company's artists as well as its advertisements from the period. Dodd call number: D2243

Many people are unaware of the short-lived record label Black Swan, which was launched in 1921 by Harlem businessman Harry Pace, who was a partner in the music publishing venture of blues composer W. C. Handy. Pace's label advertised itself as "the only records made entirely by colored people" and "The only records using exclusively Negro voices." It was an attempt to reach Harlem growing middle class audience, and several of its releases featured classical artists in the Harlem community. The fledgling company's biggest success, however, was with its young blues artists Ethel Waters and Alberta Hunter. The company is also important to scholars today for its unique recordings of the stage and vaudeville artists associated with the golden age of Harlem's musical theatre, represented by the well-known review Shuffle Along. Although initial releases sold well, the larger competitors soon began to record similar material, and in 1923 the sudden emergence of radio with steady offerings of free music drove half of the record companies in the United States into bankruptcy. Black Swan struggled on until December 1923, when it sold its masters to Paramount Records in Chicago. Its semi-classical records are today among the rarest of the recordings from this early period of Harlem cultural life.

Black Swan 2015 (78rpm) The Rosary and Sorter Miss You by Marianna Johnson. Accompanied by the Black Swan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Grant Still. This was the artist's only recording for Black Swan, and it was one of the company's earliest singles, released between May 1921 and June 1922. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/SE1

ANTHOLOGYOF NEGRO POETS in the U S. A. Read by Arna Bontemps Folkways Records LP FL 9792 (renumbered from original release), 1955. Poets included are Phyllis Wheatley, Lucy Terry, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Angelina Weld Grimke, Jean Toomer, James Weldon Johnson, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Fenton Johnson, Frank Home, Sterling A. Brown, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jeffrey Hayes, Waring Cuney, Helene Johnson, Robert Hayden, Arna Bontemps, and Claude McKay. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP4

ANTHOLOGY OF NEGRO POETS Folkways Records LP FL 9791 (renumbered from original release), 1964 Edited by Arna Bontemps, poems read by the individual authors. Poets included are Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Margaret Walker, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Among the selections are Hughes' reading of "I Have Known Rivers," Cullen's "Heritage," and McKay's "If We Must Die," with a spoken introduction. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP5

STERLING A. BROWN 16 Poems of Sterling A. Brown, read by Sterling A. Brown. Folkways Records LP 9794 (renumbered from original release), 1973. Produced and edited by Frederic Ramsey Jr. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP1

W.E.B. Du BOIS A recorded autobiography/interview by Moses Asch. Folkways Records LP 5511, 1961. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP7

LANGSTON HUGHES A78rpm single record Asch Records 4542 LP Asch Records was owned by Moses Asch and it was active in the late 1940s before he founded Folkways Records with his longtime partner Marian Distler. Asch's friendship and working relationship with Hughes continued into the Folkways era. On this 78 rpm single Hughes reads Porter, Brass Spitoons, Ku Klux Klan, Merry-Go-Round, Florida Road Workers, and Good Morning Stalingrad. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/SE2

The Dream Keeper & other poems of Langston Hughes, read by the author. Folkways Records LP FC 7774 (renumbered from original release) 1955. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP3

Sterling Brown & Langston Hughes, read by the authors. Folkways Records LP 9790 (renumbered from original release), 1967 For this album Brown devoted one side of the LP to his poetry, and on the other side Hughes read selections from his book Simple Speaks His Mind. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP2

Langston Hughes Reads his Poetry, with commentary and reflections by the author, 1962 and 1964. Caedmon Cassette CF 1640, 1980. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/AC1

MARGARET WALKER The Poetry of Margaret Walker, read by Margaret Walker. Folkways Records LP 9795 (renumbered from original release), 1974. Dodd call number: 2010-0116/LP6

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Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US