The Librarian at the Nexus of the Harlem Renaissance

A party on the roof of Regina Anderson's home, at 580 St. Nicholas Ave. in Harlem. From left to right, attendees included Ethel Ray (Nance), Langston Hughes, Helen Lanning, Pearl Fisher, Regina Anderson (Andrews), Rudolf Fisher, Luella Tucker, Clarissa Scott (Delany), Esther Popel, Hubert Delany, Jessie Fauset, Marie Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier.

BY CARA GIAIMO | Atlas Obscura

You might not know about Regina Anderson, but you’ve probably heard of many of her friends. On a typical day in 1923 or 1924, Anderson might leave her desk at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library and drop a letter to W.E.B. Du Bois in the mailbox. She may go home to her apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue to check up on her couchsurfer, Zora Neale Hurston. Or she might hit the town with Countee Cullen, and then finish out the night cooking bacon and eggs for Langston Hughes.

Nearly a century after it began, the Harlem Renaissance remains one of the preeminent cultural movements in American history. And although Anderson doesn’t show up in many contemporary accounts of the period, she was there the whole time: lending out books, throwing parties, fighting for opportunities of her own, and enabling the spread of ideas that made the era what it was.

“She was that connection,” says historian Ethelene Whitmire, author of Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian, a biography that seeks to restore Anderson to her rightful place in the movement.

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