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Article

Michael Flug

She was called “the Lieutenant” by some of her colleagues and a taskmaster by many of the young people who did their research at the Chicago Public Library branch she headed. Yet Vivian G. Harsh was revered by a generation of prominent black writers and scholars. She was eulogized as “the historian who never wrote,” yet she succeeded in building one of the most important research collections on black history and literature in the United States.

Vivian Gordon Harsh grew up in the world of Chicago’s Old Settlers, the tightly knit community of pioneer black families in the city. The year after she graduated from Wendell Phillips High School on Chicago’s South Side, Harsh began working for the only employer she would ever have, the Chicago Public Library. She started as a junior clerk in December 1909 rising slowly through the ranks during her first fifteen years of service ...

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Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley was the longtime librarian and curator of the Moorland-Spingarn Collection (now known as the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center) at Howard University. Her tenure extended from 1930 to 1973 and encompassed the explosion of black history and culture that extended from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s through the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Porter Wesley assisted the many historians and other scholars who documented, researched, studied, and wrote about black history and culture, especially those associated with Howard University. These scholars included Alain LeRoy Locke, the first African American Rhodes scholar and an important contributor to the New Negro Movement, which became popularized as the Harlem Renaissance; the poet and literary scholar Sterling A. Brown; the artist and art historian James A. Porter, who was Porter Wesley’s husband; the political scientist and diplomat Ralph J. Bunche the sociologist E Franklin Frazier and the historians ...