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The Manuscripts, Archives & Rare Books Division contains primary resources including personal papers, unpublished manuscripts, records of organizations and institutions, correspondence, and other ephemera. Below are a sample from the numerous collections relevant to African American theater. You can contact this division, which is by appointment only, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (212) 491-2224.
Alice Childress Papers, 1937-1997
Call Number: Sc MG 649
Alice Childress was a founding member of the American Negro Theatre and she starred in their productions including the play "Anna Lucasta" which transferred to Broadway following a successful run in Harlem. Childress, the first African-American woman to win an Obie award, was also a playwright, screenwriter, novelist and non-fiction writer. In this collection you will find papers that documents her career as a multidisciplinary artist over several decades.
Frank Silvera Writers Workshop (play scripts)
The Frank Silvera Writers Workshop collection contains the plays of more than 250 authors whose works were developed in the workshop which was named after the actor/writer Frank Silvera. The workshop was founded in the early 1970s by Garland Lee Thompson (who led the workshop for decades) along with Morgan Freeman, Billie Allen and Clayton Riley.
Helen Armstead-Johnson Miscellaneous Theater Collection, 1831-1993
Call Number: Sc MG 599
This collection contains materials that documents African American theater artists and movements from the mid 19th century through the 1990s. Helen Armstead-Johnson began researching African-American theater in the 1960s and later established The Helen Armstead-Johnson Foundation For Theater Research to collect, preserve, document and exhibit the history of Black contributions to the American stage.
James Baldwin Papers, 1936-1992
Call Number: Sc MG 936
Harlem born James Baldwin was one of most the preeminent authors and public intellectual figures of the 20th century. The James Balwin Papers contains his personal papers, writings and business records. Researchers can find different manuscripts version of Baldwin's plays (and screenplays) including "Blues For Mister Charlie," "The Amen Corner" and "The Welcome Table" and others.
Lorraine Hansberry Papers, 1947-1988
Call Number: Sc MG 680
Lorraine Hansberry is one of the most produced African-American playwrights in the history of American theater. Best known for her drama "A Raisin In the Sun," Hansberry was also an outspoken activist and the archival collection includes her personal papers, writings and other works.
Negro Actors Guild of America records, 1904-1982, 1937-1982 (bulk)
Call Number: Sc MG 259
The Negro Actors Guild was a welfare and benevolent organization for Black performers and the Guild was composed of six different committees including finance, administrative, entertainment, etc. The Negro Actor's Guild records document the functions and activities of this professional organization.
Negro Ensemble Company Records, 1967-1993
Call Number: Sc MG 345
This collection documents the groundbreaking African-American theater company which produced playwrights including Charles Fuller, Lonne Elder III, Paul Carter Harrison, Pearl Cleage, Judi Ann Mason and numerous others. NEC was a launchpad for actors including Denzel Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Barbara Montgomery, and L. Scott Caldwell. The files are organized by Administrative, Managing Directors, Production Series and Financial Records. The collection also contains play scripts of unpublished and published works.
New Federal Theatre Records, 1971-2015
New Federal Theatre was founded by Woody King Jr. in the early 1970s and was in residence at the Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for decades. NFT has been a presenter of works by playwrights from the African diaspora and a training ground for playwrights and actors. This collection documents NFT through playwrights scripts that were produced and submitted to the company. The collection also contains materials pertaining to NFT productions.
Urban Arts Corps Records (1955-1983)
Urban Arts Corps contains production records for plays produced by this company from 1967-1983. Among the core goals of UAC, established by performer and director Vinnette Carrol in 1967, was to provide urban African American and Latino young adults with direct collaborative experiences with performing artists who shared their social and cultural heritage and both stimulate and assist in the development of young artists in disadvantaged areas. UAC also endeavored to develop a major repertory company that produced new, classical and relevant plays of enduring value by Black playwrights that were within the mission of the company.
Rhetta Hughes and cast in a scene from musical theater adaptation of James Baldwin's play Amen Corner. Photo by Martha Swope. The Billy Rose Theatre Division at the Library For the Performing Arts.
Actor Gregory Hines, director George C. Wolfe, lyricist Susan Birkenhead and composer Luther Henderson (whose personal papers are housed in the Schomburg Center's Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division) in a rehearsal shot from the Broadway musical Jelly's Last Jam. Photo by Martha Swope. The Billy Rose Theatre Division at the Library For the Performing Arts.
Nell Carter (whose scrapbook collection is housed in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division) in a publicity shot from the Broadway revue Black Broadway. Photo by Martha Swope. The Billy Rose Theatre Division at the Library For the Performing Arts.