Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Regina Anderson Andrews: Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Regina Anderson Andrews: Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Article excerpt

Regina Anderson Andrews: Harlem Renaissance Librarian. By Ethelene Whitmire. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015. Pp. xi, 147, notes, index. Paper, $25).

Students of the Harlem Renaissance have long known of Regina Anderson Andrews' significance. What was missing, however, was a book-length study. Ethelene Whitmire has filled that need with her prize-winning biography.

Andrews (1901-1993) was born in Chicago of mixed-race parents on both sides. She moved to live with her grandparents in Normal, Illinois when her parents divorced. After returning to the city and temporarily attending Wilberforce, Andrews worked at the Chicago Public Library, where the pioneering AfricanAmerican librarian Vivian G. Harsh "mentored" her (p. 5).

For reasons that are unclear, Andrews moved to New York City, where a public library administrator assigned her to its Harlem Branch because of her "color." There she worked for Ernestine Rose (1880-1961), who was committed to community outreach and intellectual uplift. Flourishing under this tutelage, Andrews organized and ran the North Harlem Community Forum and also saw to it that African-American writers, including Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, had a place to work. She played no small role in turning the library into, according to David Levering Lewis, the intellectual pulse of Harlem.

Ensconced at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue, Andrews and her two roommates, Ethel Nance and Louella Tucker, hosted a literary salon attended by countless Harlemites. Nance recalled that the residence was known to all and served as a place of refuge and introduction for newcomers on the Urban League approved list.

The Harlem Experimental Theatre (HET) was yet another of Andrews' projects. …

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