James Richmond Barthé, sculptor
[January 28, 1901 – March 5, 1989]
Barthé’s life and art were devoted to resolving internal conflicts resulting from the political pressures he felt as a black artist in New York, as a deeply spiritual person, and as a homosexual. His sculptures became the means through which he attempted to work out and work through these conflicts.
His work expresses a range of emotions and experiences, from lynching as a social reality for blacks to the ephemerality and eroticism of dance.
Artistically, Barthé preferred traditional styles and methods. He was particularly inspired by Western classical notions of beauty and Michelangelo’s idealization of the male nude. He coupled this interest with Rodinesque expressive compositions and a fascination with primitivism.
Langston Hughes, writer/activist
[February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967]
Academics and biographers today believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman. Hughes has cited him as an influence on his poetry. Hughes’s story “Blessed Assurance” deals with a father’s anger over his son’s effeminacy and “queerness”. The biographer Aldrich argues that, in order to retain the respect and support of black churches and organizations and avoid exacerbating his precarious financial situation, Hughes remained closeted.
Countee Cullen, author
[May 30, 1903 – January 9, 1946]
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.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson, poet/journalist, socail activist
[July 19, 1875 – September 18, 1935]