Carl Van Vechten Papers Relating to African American Arts and Letters
Scope and Contents
- 1800 - 1971
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Box 50 is for research use only, and may not be duplicated.
Boxes 80-81: Restricted fragile material. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
157.31 Linear Feet ((221 boxes) + 3 art and 2 broadsides)
Carl Van Vechten
His 1907 marriage to Ann Snyder, a friend since his youth in Cedar Rapids, ended in divorce in 1912. On October 21, 1914 he married Fania Marinoff, an actress who had immigrated to the United States as a child from Russia. They were married for fifty years. A family inheritance received in 1927 provided Van Vechten with the means to support himself and Fania, and freed him to pursue his interests without financial constraints. During the 1920s, Van Vechten was introduced to members of the artistic and cultural movement that would become known as the Harlem Renaissance. He enjoyed frequenting the clubs, restaurants, and salons of Harlem, and he began to develop friendships among members of the Black community. His 1926 novel, Nigger Heaven, was inspired by his visits to Harlem and its residents.
Beginning in the early 1930s Van Vechten devoted much of his time to photography. In his home studio he produced hundreds of photographic portraits of his friends and acquaintances, as well as other world figures whom he photographed by invitation and by recommendations from mutual friends. He and Fania developed a large multicultural network of friends and acquaintances in New York, throughout the United States, and abroad. The Van Vechten apartment became a meeting place for established and developing writers, visual and performing artists, publishers, educators, social activists, and others. Throughout his life Van Vechten developed close friendships with women as well as intimate relationships with men.
As a collector, Van Vechten acquired important collections of books and manuscripts, particularly those relating to African-American arts and literature. In 1941, he established the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at Yale University, in honor of the writer and close friend who had died in 1938. In 1947, Van Vechten established the Anna Marble-Pollock Collection of Books about Cats at Yale. He also gave to Yale additional individual books and manuscripts, as well as a large group of his personal papers. He established and/or donated material to collections at other institutions including Fisk University, Howard University, the University of New Mexico, and the New York Public Library (including personal papers dating from 1833 to 1965). Carl Van Vechten died in New York City on December 22, 1964.
Fania Marinoff (1890-1971)
As he prepared his personal papers to be sent to Yale, Van Vechten identified which material was to be made a part of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection. Donald Gallup, the curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature, worked with Van Vechten and carried out his instructions as the Yale Library accessioned and conducted preliminary cataloging of the papers, which were subsequently classed as Za Van Vechten and JWJ Van Vechten. With few exceptions, Van Vechten’s vision for his papers was maintained throughout the most recent processing of the Carl Van Vechten Papers (YCAL MSS 1050) and the Carl Van Vechten Papers Relating to African American Arts and Letters (JWJ MSS 1050). No comprehensive effort was made during the processing of the papers to amend or revise distinctions made by Van Vechten or Gallup.
Former call numbers: JWJ Van Vechten
- African American artists -- 20th Century
- African American authors -- 20th Century
- Artists -- United States -- 20th Century
- Authors -- United States -- 20th Century
- Authors, American -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Bontemps, Arna, 1902-1973
- Color slides
- Dodson, Owen, 1914-1983
- Fisk University
- Frick, Dorothy Peterson, 1897-1978
- Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958
- Harlem Renaissance
- Himes, Chester B., 1909-1984
- Holt, Nora Douglas, 1885-1974
- Howard University
- Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967
- Hurston, Zora Neale, 1891-1960
- Jackman, Harold, 1901-1961
- Johnson, Grace Nail, 1885-1976
- Johnson, James Weldon, 1871-1938
- Marinoff, Fania, 1890-1971
- Nugent, Bruce, 1906-1987
- Photographic prints
- Richer, Clément
- Robeson, Eslanda Goode, 1896-1965
- Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976
- Schuyler, Josephine, 1900-1969
- Schuyler, Philippa, 1932-1967
- Thomas, Edna, 1885-1974
- Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964
- White, Walter, 1893-1955
- Guide to the Carl Van Vechten Papers Relating to African American Arts and Letters
- Susan Brady and Matthew Daniel Mason
- July 2017
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.