Countee Cullen, author
[May 30, 1903 – January 9, 1946]
Countee Cullen, author
Angelina Weld Grimké, poet, writer and teacher
[February 27, 1880 – June 10 1958]
Leaves, that whisper, whisper ever,
Listen, listen, pray;
Birds, that twitter, twitter softly,
Do not say me nay;
Winds, that breathe about, upon her,
(Since I do not dare)
Whisper, twitter, breathe unto her
That I find her fair.
Rose whose soul unfolds white petaled
Touch her soul rose-white;
Rose whose thoughts unfold gold petaled
Blossom in her sight;
Rose whose heart unfolds red petaled
Quick her slow heart’s stir;
Tell her white, gold, red my love is;
And for her, —for her.
Alain LeRoy Locke (1885 – 1954) was an American writer, philosopher, educator, and patron of the arts. He is best known for his writings on and about the Harlem Renaissance. He is unofficially called the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance”. His philosophy served as a strong motivating force in keeping the energy and passion of the Movement at the forefront.
Locke promoted African American artists, writers, and musicians, encouraging them to look to Africa as an inspiration for their works. He encouraged them to depict African and African American subjects, and to draw on their history for subject material.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson, poet/journalist, socail activist
[July 19, 1875 – September 18, 1935]
Brother to Brother, 2004
“Beauty’s hair was so black… and soft… blue smoke from an ivory holder… was that why he loved Beauty… one can… or because his body was beautiful… and white and warm… or because his eyes… one can love…”
– Richard Bruce Nugent
Richard Bruce Nugent, 1936Photo: Carl Van Vechten
Richard Bruce Nugent [1906 - 1987] — writer, painter, illustrator, and popular bohemian personality — lived at the center of the Harlem Renaissance. Protégé of Alain Locke, roommate of Wallace Thurman, and friend of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, the precocious Nugent stood for thirty years as the only African American writer willing clearly to indicate his homosexuality in print. His contribution to the landmark publication FIRE!!, the prose composition “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” was unprecedented in its celebration of same-sex desire.
She appeared at Harry Hansberry’s “Clam House” on 133rd Street, one of New York City’s most notorious gay speakeasies in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem’s Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens.
She dressed in men’s clothes [including a signature tuxedo and top hat], played piano, and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience.
Bentley was openly lesbian during her early career, but during the McCarthy Era, she started wearing dresses, married a man [who later denied that they ever married], and studied to be a minister, claiming to have been “cured” by taking female hormones.