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Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian
    Book Description:

    The first African American to head a branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), Regina Andrews led an extraordinary life. Allied with W. E. B. Du Bois, Andrews fought for promotion and equal pay against entrenched sexism and racism and battled institutional restrictions confining African American librarians to only a few neighborhoods within New York City. Andrews also played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, supporting writers and intellectuals with dedicated workspace at her 135th Street Branch Library. After hours she cohosted a legendary salon that drew the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work as an actress and playwright helped establish the Harlem Experimental Theater, where she wrote plays about lynching, passing, and the Underground Railroad. Ethelene Whitmire's new biography offers the first full-length study of Andrews' activism and pioneering work with the NYPL. Whitmire's portrait of her sustained efforts to break down barriers reveals Andrews's legacy and places her within the NYPL's larger history.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09641-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    While reading background literature for another project, I came across an article about the role of the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) in the lives of African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance.¹ This essay mentioned that the Caucasian head librarian, the legendary Ernestine Rose, hired several African American female librarians to work at this branch.² I was instantly intrigued and puzzled. Who were they? Why hadn’t I heard of these women? I wanted to know more about their lives.

    As a female African American former Librarian-in-Residence at Yale University, I was fascinated by these African...

  5. 1. Chicago: The Beginning
    (pp. 14-20)

    In 1923, when Regina, as a librarian, decided to remain in New York City, it seemed like the most obvious thing to do would be to seek employment at the largest library system in the city—the New York Public Library. Although Regina lived with family in Chicago and had a good job at the Chicago Public Library, she decided she wanted something different, or perhaps she was escaping from a tragedy back home. Regina was also finding “it difficult to fit into the comfortable and complacent middle-class society that was expected of Negro young ladies.”¹

    Three or four days...

  6. 2. Normal, Illinois; Chicago; Wilberforce; and Chicago Public Library
    (pp. 21-31)

    In 1911, after sixteen years of marriage, Regina’s parents divorced over allegations of infidelity against William. Margaret accused William of becoming intimate with a former client who obtained a divorce using William as her attorney. According to theBroad Axenewspaper, “this particular Colored lady is exceedingly good looking, and . . . most any married woman would feel a little bit uncomfortable if she would happen to get a little too close to her husband.” Margaret was awarded the family home worth about $8,000 and received $90 a month for child support.¹ Apparently William was reluctant to divorce and...

  7. 3. Harlem Renaissance Women and 580 St. Nicholas Avenue
    (pp. 32-47)

    When Regina’s interviewer at the New York Public Library told her that she was not American, Regina recalled that she was “quite startled because I never had this confrontation in Chicago.” With fewer African Americans in Chicago than in New York City, the Chicago Public Library hired more African Americans to work in its libraries as a result of the civil service system, which hired and placed people based upon their scores on the exam regardless of race.¹

    Her New York Public Library interviewer concluded, “Because of your color . . . we’ll have to send you to Harlem to...

  8. 4. Marriage
    (pp. 48-60)

    Regina, like many young women in New York City, had a dating life that was complicated, diverse, and mysterious. She had more than one fiancé, a long distance relationship, a possible affair with a Jewish writer, and a secret lover—the author of a “Dear Reggie” letter who may have been the one she truly loved but her family disapproved of the liaison.

    Back at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue the trio invited their boyfriends to dinner. Regina knew how to set “the most wonderful table”—a skill she probably learned from her mother who also most likely painted the china...

  9. 5. The Harlem Experimental Theatre
    (pp. 61-74)

    Regina’s participation in the little theater movement began with her involvement with the theater company founded by her friend W. E. B. Du Bois. Sometime during 1924, Du Bois contacted Supervising Librarian Ernestine Rose and asked for permission to use the basement of the 135th Street Branch for a theater group, named the CRIGWA Players.¹ CRIGWA stood for Crisis Guild of Writers and Artists named after theCrisisjournal. Later the group’s name was changed to the KRIGWA Players. Du Bois wanted to use the basement stage to produce “three or four plays in 1926 and from four to six...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. 75-86)
  11. 6. The New York Public Library
    (pp. 87-99)

    All was not well in Regina’s professional life. For all that she was doing for the New York Public Library, Regina believed that she was neither being paid a wage that recognized her contributions nor being afforded the opportunities for promotion she deserved. Her relationship with Ernestine Rose deteriorated as Regina frequently asked W. E. B. Du Bois, representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), to intervene on her behalf with the NYPL administration.¹ A family friend and former client of Regina’s father, defense attorney William G. “Habeas Corpus” Anderson of Chicago, Du Bois commonly went...

  12. 7. International Flights
    (pp. 100-109)

    Regina gave a speech at a Korean high-school graduation and recalled, “[A]fter I stopped speaking they got up and dashed out and I was so disappointed. I said (to myself) ‘they didn’t even stop to say that they like it or enjoyed it.’ When I got outside they were all lined up in a long line all the way down to the road. That was almost a block and they were singing God Bless America. . . . I enjoyed Korea.” This international travel opportunity was just one of several that Regina was able to benefit from through her civic...

  13. 8. Mahopac, New York: Endings
    (pp. 110-118)

    “Last night . . . was free from gunshots,” Regina wrote in her own hand as an addendum to her typewritten letter to her friends Mr. and Mrs. J. Newton Hill, representing the African-American Institute in Lagos, Nigeria. She meant to reassure them after typing the following message:

    Events in New York and in Harlem in particular are rather disturbing at present—and apparently growing steadily worse. Rapport between City officials and the man in the streets in Harlem seems to have worsened rapidly since the Republican Convention, as if a foreboding was generated during the Convention days which has...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 119-142)
  15. Index
    (pp. 143-148)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 149-154)