Category: harlem renaissance


Billie Holiday photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1949.


Fredi Washington photographed by Carl Van Vechten on December 8, 1938.  

Fredericka Carolyn “Fredi” Washington (December 23, 1903 – June 28, 1994) was an African American actress, best known for her role as Peola in the 1934 version of the film Imitation of Life.

Washington turned down a number of chances to pass for white as an actress, which might have led to greater acting opportunities. Her light competition and green eyes led directors to choose darker skinned actresses for the stereotypical “maid” roles.

She wanted to perform in more complicated, versatile roles. Frustrated she quit acting and focused her efforts on civil rights.

Fredi Washington: “You see I’m a mighty proud gal and I can’t for the life of me, find any valid reason why anyone should lie about their origin or anything else for that matter. Frankly, I do not ascribe to the stupid theory of white supremacy and to try to hide the fact that I am a Negro for economic or any other reasons, if I do I would be agreeing to be a Negro makes me inferior and that I have swallowed whole hog all of the propaganda dished out by our fascist-minded white citizens.

I am an American citizen and by God, we all have inalienable rights and wherever those rights are tampered with, there is nothing left to do but fight…and I fight. How many people do you think there are in this country who do not have mixed blood, there’s very few if any, what makes us who we are, are our culture and experience. No matter how white I look, on the inside I feel black. There are many whites who are mixed blood, but still go by white, why such a big deal if I go as Negro, because people can’t believe that I am proud to be a Negro and not white. To prove I don’t buy white superiority I chose to be a Negro.” 

Langston Hughes photographed by Carl Van Vechten on March 8, 1939.     


Billie Holiday photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1949.

W.E.B. Du Bois photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1946.  

Ella Fitzgerald photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1940. 

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Hazel Scott on their wedding day in Harlem on August 1, 1945.

Jean-Michel Basquiat photographed by James Van Der Zee, 1982.

Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee (June 29, 1886 – May 15, 1983) was 96 years old when he took these photos of 21-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988). This photo session was for an interview with Henry Gelzahler for Interview magazine.

Harold Jackman photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1932 and 1940.

Harold Jackman (1901-1961) was a teacher, model, actor, writer, and patron.


was a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance.

He encouraged his artistic friends and helped them make connections with those who could further their careers.

His life long interest in documenting African American cultural life resulted in his recreation of what is now the Harold Jackman Countee Cullen Memorial Collection located at Robert Woodruff Library in Atlanta. Jackman was born in London to a West Indian mother and an unidentified father.

He attended the prestigious DeWitt Clinton High School, a predominately white, all boys school

in New York. In 1918, at school he met the man who would soon become known as Harlem’s first poet laureate, Countee Cullen. Jackman earned a B. A. from New York University and eventually received a Masters from Columbia University.  He was active in many organizations like the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Urban League and the Negro Actors Guild, where he served on the executive board. For 30 years, Jackman taught social studies in the New York public school system. He loved to travel and became sexually involved with the writer, Edouard Roditi, in France.

Jackman’s diaries and collections are now considered some of the most important resources for writers and historians.

Boxer Joe Louis and his wife Marva Trotter in Harlem on September 25, 1935.

(Original Caption) 9/25/1935-New York, NY: Joe Louis, the ‘Brown Bomber’ of Detroit, shown walking along a Harlem street with his bride, the former Marva Trotter of Chicago whom he married a few hours before Joe knocked out Max Baer of California. As the result of his victory last night, and the one over Primo Carnera early this summer, Joe is the idol of New York’s Harlem. Joe and his bride left New York for Pompton Lakes, scene of the fighter’s training activities. Later they will return to Joe’s home city of Detroit.