In his day, Henry “Box” Brown was a celebrated stage magician who incorporated performance into his lectures on abolitionism in the United States and England. Much of what we know about him comes from his memoir, the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself (1851).
African American Creators
Many writers and artists through history have developed their craft, and even published, while they were imprisoned. Among them is Chester Himes, an African American author who wrote about racism, prison life, and who is best known for his Harlem Detective series.
Records related to Himes are found in the Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. archive, which documents the history of the well-known publishing house. The papers contain correspondence, publicity materials, and/or manuscripts from a number of other African American writers, including James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, John Oliver Killens, Nella Larsen, Alain Locke, Claude McKay, and Walter White. [Read more…] about Knopf archive reveals details about Lonely Crusade author Chester Himes
In 2017, renowned portraitist Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) reflected on his four-decade career by stating simply, “my work has largely been based on representation of the human subject.” He explained that he has used photography to depict “subjects such as the black subject, or young people, who are not always—within the larger social conversation—thought of as having a rich interior life.” In addition to these poetic portraits of ordinary people, Bey has recently begun confronting central events in African American history, asking, “what kind of work can one make about something that happened decades ago?” [Read more…] about Portfolio of photographs acquired from Dawoud Bey’s Night Coming Tenderly, Black
In 1933, the Harlem Renaissance star wrote a powerful essay about race, unpublished in English until 2019.
It’s not every day that you come across an extraordinary unknown work by one of the nation’s greatest writers. But buried in an unrelated archive, I discovered a searing essay condemning racism in America by Langston Hughes—the moving account, published in its original form below, of an escaped prisoner he met while traveling with Zora Neale Hurston.