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Because of the illustrations he created for philosopher Alain Locke’s influential work, The New Negro, Aaron Douglas was the visual artist of choice for many African American authors and publications. Douglas’s work shows his full embrace of Locke’s conception that Black artists should look to Africa for artistic inspiration.
Through his artwork that graced the pages of works that include James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones and Fire!, a journal edited by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Wallace Thurman, and through the body of his work as an illustrator, graphic designer, and muralist, Douglas was dubbed “the father of Black Art.”
Aaron Douglas (May 26, 1898 February 3, 1979) was an African American painter and a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
W.E.B. Du Bois was a Pan-Africanist, scholar, sociologist, activist, editor, poet, and playwright, who, along with librarian, Regina Andrews, founded the KRIGWA Players in Harlem, during the Renaissance era. Housed in the basement of the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library, KRIGWA sought to produce plays written and acted by Black people.
This KRIGWA Players program includes art work by Aaron Douglas
W.E.B. DuBois talks about his time in Atlanta, from the collection Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers. He recalls a specific lynching in Atlanta
Shirley Graham Du Bois was a woman of many talents. In addition to composing Tom-Tom: An Epic of Music and the Negro, the musical covering the expanse of Black music, as of the 1930s, she was an author who penned biographies of Phillis Wheatley, Paul Robeson, Kwame Nkrumah, among others.
Her politics were decidedly Left and she was a member of the Communist Party USA for many years. Additionally, she was a confidant of President Kwame Nkrumah as well as another African head of state, Julius Nyerere, of Tanzania. Shirley Graham spent most of her life fighting against racial and capitalist injustice. She was a staunch supporter of the Chinese Revolution, and, as such, was highly respected by its leadership. She is buried in China.
Listening To Tom-Tom by Shirley Graham Du Bois | Full Concert & Conversation
Shirley Graham Du Bois on Imperialists and Neocolonialism
She was an assistant professor at the graduate Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University. Henderson-Holmes published two books of poetry, Daily Bread, and Madness and a Little Bit of Hope, which won the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award. A committed activist, she was devoted to realizing her internationalist perspectives, and worked with projects and organizations such as Art Against Apartheid, the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, and MADRE. There are those among us, who remember that on many a Mother’s Day, she took bouquets of flowers to her mother-sister-friends throughout New York City.
February 12, 2022 was the 122nd anniversary of the first public rendition of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” The event took place in Jacksonville, Florida, the birthplace of James and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, who composed the music for the song. The very first performance of the song happened on February 12, 1900, by five hundred school children in Jacksonville to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
The United States House of Representatives declared “Lift Ev ’ry Voice and Sing” the national hymn of the United States.
The Howard Gospel Choir of Howard University sings "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (The Black National Anthem) at Jerusalemskirken (Church of Jerusalem) in Copenhagen, Denmark [Europe] as a part of our Northern Scandinavian Tour in February 2010.
Educator, playwright, and author, Butler Jones grew up at 409 Edgecombe Avenue, and, judging by her literary output and the oral history she shared with While We Are Still Here, the people in that building helped shape her creativity. Describing 409 as a socio-economically mixed residence, where one could find, “doctors, lawyers, a number runner, hot goods, and a hairdresser,” among other types of folk, Butler Jones transformed her early experiences into a play called 409 Edgecombe Avenue: The House On Sugar Hill. She also penned an essay in Herb Boyd’s Harlem Readerabout Madam Stephanie St. Clair, the numbers queen of Harlem, who also lived at 409. Of Butler Jones’s memoir, Deeper Roots: An American Odyssey, Boyd stated, “…How wonderful to relive these splendid moments with a superb storyteller."
Upon coming to Harlem from Minneapolis, Marvel Cooke landed in the cultural vortex of the Renaissance era. She worked as W.E.B. Du Bois’s assistant at Crisis magazine, and, ultimately, made a name for herself as a journalist, labor organizer, and activist. Marvel Cooke was the first woman reporter at the Amsterdam News. Her circle of friends, comrades, and acquaintances included Richard Wright, Elizabeth Catlett, Countee Cullen, and Ella Baker, with whom she publicized the plight of Black domestic workers in an article, “The Bronx Slave Market.” In a foray into immersion journalism, Marvel went under cover as a domestic worker to deepen the previous expose. She, like Shirley Graham Du Bois, was active in the Communist Party. Marvel, like Louise Patterson Thompson, was active in the movement to free Angela Davis.
Marvel Cooke (1903-2000) was an American journalist, writer, and civil rights activist. In 1928, she was the first woman reporter at the New York Amsterdam News and the first African-American woman to work at a mainstream white-owned newspaper. While working for Amsterdam News in the 1930s, Cooke helped create a local chapter of the Newspaper Guild, held union meetings in her home, and joined the Communist Party. She later went on to volunteer as national legal defense secretary for the Angela D