Oral history interview with Theophilus Lewis, 1971


Lewis, Theophilus, 1891-1974 (Interviewee)
La Brie, Henry G (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Theophilus Lewis, 1971
Other Titles
Reminiscences of Theophilus Lewis : oral history, 1971; Oral history of Theophilus Lewis, 1971
In this interview with Henry G. La Brie III, Theophilus Lewis (1891 - 1974) discusses his migration from Baltimore, Maryland, and his decision to settle in New York City, employment history, and his writing career. Lewis discusses his early means of supporting himself when first moved to New York in 1910. He recalls his work with The Messenger writing theater reviews and discusses his compensation. Lewis shares his views on the role, purpose, and future of the black press. He details the challenges facing the black press, as well as those of running a black daily newspaper. Lewis distinguishes The Messenger as a magazine and not a newspaper, and notes the new trend of foregrounding local news over national news in local newspapers. His discussion also points out the differences between the black and white press.
Collection Name
Black Journalists oral history collection
Journalism--Social aspects; Journalists; Newspaper publishing--Economic aspects--United States; African American press; African American journalists; African Americans--Civil rights; New York (N.Y.); United States Race relations; Lewis, Theophilus, 1891-1974
oral histories
Physical Description
sound files : digital preservation master, WAV files (96kHz, 24 bit); 27 pages
Note (Biographical)
Theophilus Lewis (1981 - 1974) was a drama critic, writer, and editor during the Harlem Renaissance. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where he attended public schools through seventh grade. Lewis moved to New York City in 1910 where he w orked as a manual laborer and sold newspapers before serving the United States overseas in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War I. Lewis was an avid reader, enjoyed the theatre, and began writing a monthly column for The Messenger during the 1920s. In that column, he voiced concern about the portrayal of black people in theater and white playwrights' portrayal of black citizens. He wrote about the need for development of a national theater which he believed would assist in developing African American playwrights, and argued against the perpetuation of stereotypes. During his career, Lewis wrote a column for The Messenger entitled "Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire" and wrote for The Smart Set, Opportunity, Inter-State Tatler, Amsterdam News, Catholic World, Commonweal, America, Pittsburgh Courier, People's Voice. For International Review, he wrote the column "Plays and Points of View", and championed the development of an African American Little Theatre. Lewis married in 1933; he and his wife had three children Selma Marie, Alfred Charles, and Lowell Francis. He died in 1974.
Interviewed by Henry G. La Brie III on June 24, 1971.
Note (Provenance)
Henry G. La Brie III Gift, 1975
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Time-Based Media
Time-Based Media
Persistent URL
Related URLs
Available digital content for this interview.