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Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Ethelene Whitmire

Publication Year: 2014

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, she fought for promotion and equal pay against entrenched sexism and racism. 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.Ethelene Whitmire's new biography offers the first full-length portrait of Andrews' activism, engagement with the arts of the Harlem Renaissance, and work with the NYPL.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. ix-xiv

I would like to especially thank Raquel Von Cogell and Dr. Cherene Sherrard- Johnson, who enthusiastically supported this project during the entire journey. I began this journey as an assistant professor at University of California– Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Information Studies. Crucial support...

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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...

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1. Chicago: The Beginning

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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...

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2. Normal, Illinois; Chicago; Wilberforce, and Chicago Public Library

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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 the Broad Axe newspaper, “this particular Colored lady...

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3. Harmlem Renaissance Women and 580 St. Nicholas Avenue

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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...

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4. Marriage

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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...

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5. The Harlem Experimental Theatre

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pp. 61-86

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...

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6. The New York Public Library

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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...

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7. International Flights

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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...

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8. Mahopac, New York

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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...


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pp. 119-142


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pp. 143-148

About the Author, Publisher Notes

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252096419
E-ISBN-10: 025209641X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252038501

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 884725751
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

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Subject Headings

  • Andrews, Regina.
  • Library directors -- United States -- Biography.
  • African American women librarians -- United States -- Biography.
  • New York Public Library. 135th Street Branch -- Biography.
  • Harlem Renaissance.
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.) -- Intellectual life.
  • African Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -- Intellectual life.
  • African American theater -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
  • Discrimination in employment.
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