Mondays at Beinecke: “All the news as well as the scandal” - Gwendolyn Bennett’s letters from Paris
Monday, December 6, 2021 - 4:00pm to 4:30pm
A presentation by Melissa Barton, curator of prose and drama in the Yale Collection of American Literature (YCAL), in conjunction with the exhibition “Road Show: Travel Papers in American Literature,” organized by Nancy Kuhl, curator of poetry in YCAL.
Writer, artist, and journalist Gwendolyn Bennett (1902–1981) was an active contributor to the vital period of artistic activity among African Americans commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance. Bennett published work with the leading magazines of the period, including The Crisis, Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, and the influential if short- lived arts magazine Fire!! Some of the greatest writers of the period—including Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer—counted Bennett among their closest friends. After studying at Columbia and Pratt Universities and teaching design and painting at Howard University, Bennett received a fellowship to study at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1924. Living in France among a creative community of American expatriates, Bennet wrote letters asking friends to send copies of the latest books by writers in Harlem. She promised to help smuggle a copy of James Joyce’s censored novel Ulysses to New York and recounted meeting Ernest Hemingway and other soon-to-be prominent writers at social gatherings. When she returned to New York after more than a year in Paris, Bennett worked as an editorial assistant at a prominent magazine and wrote a regular literary column at another. Throughout her life, she continued to support African American arts and culture as a member of the Harlem Artist Guild, as a member of the Board of the Negro Playwright’s Guild, and as the leader of the Harlem Community Arts Center.