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Gwendolyn Bennett Papers

Call Number: JWJ MSS 106

Scope and Contents

The collection provides evidence of the personal and professional life of Gwendolyn Bennett. The papers are comprised of correspondence, writings, and personal papers, which shed light into Bennett’s career as a writer and educator, as well as her private life, particularly her relationship with her parents.

Correspondents include Langston Hughes, who accompanied his letters with four poems inscribed to Bennett: “Hotel Boy” (1926), “Stalingrad” (1942), “Goodmorning, Stalingrad” (1943), and “Give Us Our Peace” (1945). Correspondence between Bennett and her father Joshua Bennett, mother Mayme Abernathy Pizarro, and stepmother Marechal Neil Bennett, in particular, provide insight into Bennett’s life and work.

Evidence of Bennett’s writing career, including mock-ups for her column for Opportunity, "The Ebony Flute," and drafts of articles and a short story, can be found in the papers.

The papers also contain personal papers, including bills, receipts, a book of Psalms, and notes that provide further insight into Bennett’s personal life.


  • 1918 - 1976


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Gwendolyn Bennett Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from William Reese Company on the Danford N. Barney, Jr. Fund and the George B. Alvord Fund, 2013.


Organized into three series: I. Correspondence, 1918-1971. II. Writings, 1926-1976. III. Personal Papers, 1925-1929.


0.63 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-1981)

Gwendolyn Bennett, American writer and artist, was born to Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme Abernathy on July 8, 1902. When her parents divorced in 1909, Bennett became estranged from her mother and was raised in Brooklyn, New York, by her father and stepmother, Marechal Neil Bennett.

Bennett attended Brooklyn's Girls' High (1918-1921) and then studied fine art at Columbia University (1921) and the Pratt Institute, where she graduated with a degree in fine arts in 1924. While still an undergraduate, Bennett published poetry in Crisis (November 1923) and Opportunity (December 1923), and also created cover art for the former (December 1923 and March 1924).

Upon graduation Bennett taught fine art at Howard University before moving to Paris where she lived from June 1925 to September 1926 and studied art at the Académies de la Grande Chaumière, Julian, and Colarossi, and at the École du Panthéon. Bennett also studied art at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania, for which she received a scholarship (1928).

Bennett published poetry in Opportunity, Crisis, Palms, and Gypsy and contributed to anthologies, including Caroling Dusk (1927) edited by Countée Cullen and The Book of American Negro Poetry (1931) edited by James Weldon Johnson. Bennett also wrote a column for Opportunity, "The Ebony Flute" (1926-1928), and served as editor for Black Opals (1927).

Throughout her career Bennett balanced administrative and teaching positions with her artistic life. She taught at the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College and the Federal Art Teaching Project, worked for the Department of Information and Education of the Welfare Council of New York, served as the director of the Harlem Community Art Center, and as a correspondent for the Consumers Union. Bennett married Alfred Jackson, a doctor, in 1928 and they remained married until Jackson’s death in 1936. They lived in Eustis, Florida, and Hempstead, New York. In 1941 Bennett married Richard Crosscup, a teacher.

Bennett died of congestive heart failure on May 30, 1981.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

Guide to the Gwendolyn Bennett Papers
Under Revision
by H. Dean
December 2013
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

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Opening Hours

Access Information

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.