Regina Anderson and Gwendolyn Bennett

Regina AndersonRegina Anderson

-Birth: May 21, 1901
-Death: February 5, 1993

Also known under the pseudonym, Ursula Trelling, Regina M. Anderson was a prominent force in the creation of the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Anderson was a professional librarian for the New York City Library as well as a playwright. She attended Columbia University where she obtained her Masters of Library Science. Anderson would later also attend the University of Chicago and Wilberforce University in Ohio. Her significance to the Harlem Renaissance was cultivated through her promotion and sponsorship of young Negro artists at that time. Her apartment she shared with Gwendolyn Bennett and Ethel Ray Nance was used as a meeting place for those actively involved with or having a wealth of knowledge regarding the Renaissance. While at the Civic Club for dinner, in March of 1924, Regina and her two roommates pleaded that Charles Johnson organize a movement, headed by speeches and readings, for artists such as Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes. This was the birth of what we know now to be the Harlem Renaissance. Soon thereafter, Regina Anderson teamed up with W.E.B. Dubois to found the Krigwa Players, an African-American acting company. The troupe, which would later come to be known as The Harlem Experimental Theatre, found a home in the basement of the Public Library in Harlem, with credit due to Anderson.  In 1931, the Players produced Anderson’s one-act play about lynching, entitled, “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”.  The following year, they put on Anderson’s play, “Underground”, which focused on the happenings of the Underground Railroad. Both of the plays were composed under her alias, Ursula Trelling. In 1926, Anderson married a New York State Assembly representative by the name of William T. Andrews and became Regina Andrews. In addition to her prominence to the Harlem Renaissance, Regina Anderson worked with groups like, the National Council of Women, and the National Urban League. After becoming the first minority to rise in the ranks and be named supervising librarian, Anderson retired from her position at the library in 1967.  Outliving most of her contemporaries, Anderson died in the New York suburb of Ossining.

bennetpainting

Gwendolyn Bennett

-Birth:  July 8, 1902
-Death: May 30, 1981

Gwendolyn Bennett was born in Giddings, Texas to Joshua and Maime Bennett. Her parents teaching in the Indian Service, Gwendolyn spent a significant amount of her early childhood on the Paiute Indian Reservation. At the age of four, Bennett and her parents moved to Washington D.C. There her father studied law and her mother trained to be a beautician. However, things were not as picturesque as they seemed. When Gwendolyn was seven, her parents divorced. Her mother was granted custody, but her father kidnapped Gwendolyn and they lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling along the east coast with her stepmother. Eventually settling in New York, Bennett attended Brooklyn’s Girls’ High. While attending the school, she received first place in a school wide art contest. She was also the first African-American to join the literary and drama societies. Showing immense talent, Bennett wrote her school play and was also featured as an actress. She later wrote the class graduation speech and the words to the graduation song. Upon graduating in 1921, Bennett took art classes at Columbia University and the Pratt Institute. It was while she was in her undergraduate studies that Bennett was first published. In 1923, her poem, “Heritage”, made its way into the pages of the literary magazine, Crisis. In December, of the same year, Bennett was published in the magazine, Opportunity, which was published by the National Urban League. After completing her undergraduate studies at both universities, Gwendolyn began teaching art and design classes at Howard University. Shortly thereafter, Bennett received a scholarship granting her the ability to continue her art education in Paris. Two years after her arrival in Paris, Bennett returned to New York as the assistant to the editor of Opportunity. It was during this time that Bennett was given the chance to write her own column discussing the literary and fine arts.  The column was entitled, The Ebony Flute. In addition, she was co-founder of the literary journal, Fire!! The magazine featured works that were not at the forefront of society. Such material included, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, interracial relationships, prostitution, and color prejudices. Wedding Day, a story by Bennett was featured in the publication, along with works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, and Richard Bruce Nugent. Although Gwendolyn never published a collection of her own works, she became known for making reference to African heritage in her poetry. She also gained prominence as one of the driving forces in the creation of what we define as the Harlem Renaissance. Urging Charles Johnson, alongside Regina Anderson and Ethel Ray Nance, to organize a movement for young Negroes.  Bennett continued working as a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Her passion for teaching and supporting others, comprised with the economic factors of the Great Depression, led her to focus less on her own work, and more on cultivating the talents of the youth. Bennett continued helping the youth until her death at the age of 78 in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Questions:

1.      What influence did Regina Anderson have on the Harlem Renaissance?

2.      Gwendolyn Bennett was co-founder of what literary journal and what significance did it have during this time?

2 thoughts on “Regina Anderson and Gwendolyn Bennett

  1. 1.) Regina and her two roommates pleaded that Charles Johnson organize a movement, headed by speeches and readings, for artists such as Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes. This was the birth of what we know now to be the Harlem Renaissance. In her role as a librarian for the New York Public Library, and as an individual, Regina Anderson sponsored and promoted many artists and projects in the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
    2.)Gwendolyn was co-founder of Fire. The reviews about the Fire were not great.

  2. Gwendolyn Bennett was co-founder of the magazine Fire! Hughes made reference to this magazine and its short lived publication in his book The Big Sea. Bennett was significant to the Renaissance because she was considered one of the main driving factors of the era. She was well like because of the references she made to African American heritage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *