Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays -- Research Guide

African-American Literature

The Collection

The African-American literature holdings of the Harris Collection range from rare 18th century works by Phillis Wheatley, through the abolitionist writings of William Wells Brown and the late 19th century dialect poetry and lyrics of Paul Laurence Dunbar, to extensive holdings of major 20th century figures such as Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Sterling Brown,Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Alain Locke, Arna Bontemps, Sterling Brown, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, Robe rt Hayden, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry, among many others.

Contemporary authors held in strength include Ai, Gwendolyn Brooks, Michael Harper, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and many hundreds of others. Modern small press poetry is collected heavily. There are, in addition, holdings of African-American literary periodicals, including current subscriptions.

The Harris Collection and the Sheet Music Collection also include vocal music from the musical stage in the late 19th century and in the 1920's, when the African-American musical stage flourished, and include works by Dunbar, J. Rosamund Johnson, Bob Cole, George Williams and Bert Walker, Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and many more. The published works of contemporary African-American popular music composers and performers are acquired extensively. In addition, there are older works relating to African-American folk and religious music, the abolitionist movement, and the minstrel stage.

The African American Sheet Music Digitizing Project, part of the Library's Center for Digital Initiatives, includes digitized images of the covers and texts of 1,44 pieces of sheet music from the Library's collections.

See Also:
» Music
» Sources for the Study of 19th and 20th Century Blackface Minstrelsy

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Related Collections

In addition to the holdings of the Harris Collection, African-American literary materials in the John Hay Library will be found in the Broadsides Collection and the Sheet Music Collection. Supplementary and associated materials will be found in the McLellan Lincoln Collection, the Starred Books Collection, the Richard G. Katzoff Collection, the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, and the Hall-Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda.

The Broadsides Collection includes a considerable body of finely printed modern broadsides of poetry, including those by African-American authors, as well as many 19th century works relating to slavery, the Civil War, and the abolitionist movement. The Starred Books Collection, the general rare book collection at the John Hay Library, includes prose works by African-Americans. The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection includes published works relating to African-American soldiers, particularly of the Civil War era, as well as a wealth of illustrative material. Similar materials are to be found in the McLellan Lincoln Collection. The Richard G. Katzoff Collection includes contemporary literary works by gay and lesbian African-Americans. The Hall-Hoag Collection includes post-World War II materials on racism, politics, and the civil rights movement in America, mostly ephemeral and controversial in nature.

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Related Internet Resources

Brown University Library Resources: Digital Projects

Brown University Library Resources: Online Exhibitions

Other Internet Resources

Author Pages

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Essential References

Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760-1975. A guide to information sources.
Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979.

Chapman, Dorothy H.
Index to Black Poetry
Boston: G. K. Hall, 1974.

Chapman, Dorothy H., comp.
Index to Poetry by Black American Women .
New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.

Dennison, Sam.
Scandalize my name: Black imagery in American popular music
New York : Garland Publishing, 1982

Harris, Trudier & Thadious M. Davis, eds.
Afro-American Writers before the Harlem Renaissance .DLB 50
Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1986.

Harris, Trudier & Thadious M. Davis, eds.
Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940 .DLB 51
Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1987.

Harris, Trudier & Thadious M. Davis, eds.
Afro-American Writers, 1940-1955 . DLB 76
Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1988.

Harris, Trudier & Thadious M. Davis, eds.
Afro-American Poets Since 1955. DLB41
Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., c1985>

Kellner, Bruce, ed.
The Harlem Renaissance. A Historical Dictionary for the Era .
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Peterson, Bernard L.
The African American theatre directory, 1816-1960 : a comprehensive guide to early Black theatre organizations, companies, theatres, and performing groups. Foreword by Errol Hil l.
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1997.

Peterson, Bernard L., jr.
A Century of Musicals in Black and White. An Encyclopedia of Musical Stage Works By, About, or Involving African Americans .
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Peterson, Bernard L., jr.
Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays. A Biographical Directory and Dramatic Index .
New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Peterson, Bernard L., jr.
Early Black American Playwrights and Dramatic Writers. A Biographical Directory and Catalog of Plays, Films, and Broadcasting Scripts .
New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Southern, Eileen.
Biographical dictionary of Afro-American and African musicians
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1982

Southern, Eileen.
The music of Black Americans: a history. 3rd ed.
New York : Norton, c1997

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