Oral history interview with Arna Bontemps 1971
Oral history interview with Arna Bontemps 1971
This item is accessible in the reading room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Please make arrangements in advance of your visit. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online access to this material is restricted to the Columbia University community and is made available as a temporary emergency measure during the COVID-19 health crisis. Use of this material may be subject to the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) or to license or other rights management terms and conditions. The person using the materials is solely responsible for assessing whether the material is copyright protected, whether their intended uses are fair or whether permission is required for their uses from the copyright owner. For more information about copyright, fair use and permissions, refer to Columbia University Library’s Copyright Advisory Services at https://copyright.columbia.edu.
Columbia University affiliates may log on for access to this content here.
- Bontemps, Arna, 1902-1973 (Interviewee), La Brie, Henry G (Interviewer)
- Oral history interview with Arna Bontemps 1971
- Other Titles:
- Reminiscences of Arna Bontemps : oral history, 1971; Oral history of Arna Bontemps, 1971
- Bontemps discusses: Free At Last, his biography of Frederick Douglass; the successes of the black press and its dwindling significance; his early exposure to black newspapers; and their role in the Great Migration of black Americans out of the south. Bontemps describes the new employment opportunities available to black journalists at mainstream news outlets and the challenges this creates for black papers that cannot offer competitive salaries and thus cannot appeal to the available talent pool. He examines the credibility of black newspapers and whether or not it is important for black papers to be black-owned. Bontemps recalls his aspirations to be a journalist and his refusal by The Los Angeles Times. He describes the black newspaper as a phenomenon of the North and how, in the Deep South, black papers were met with hostility because they encouraged social change and activism.
- Collection Name:
- Black Journalists oral history collection
- Authors; African American press; African American journalists; Newspaper publishing--Economic aspects--United States; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Migrations--20th century; Migration, Internal; United States--Race relations; Bontemps, Arna, 1902-1973
- oral histories
- Physical Description:
- sound files : digital preservation master, WAV files (96kHz, 24 bit); 34 pages
- Note (Biographical):
- Arna Bontemps (1902-1973) was a novelist, poet, and noted member of the Harlem Renaissance. He was born into a Louisiana Creole family in Alexandria, Louisiana; his father Paul Bismark Bontemps was a bricklayer and his mother Maria Carolina Pembroke Bontemps was a schoolteacher. In 1905, his family relocated to Los Angeles as part of the Great Migration and settled in the Watts neighborhood. Bontemps attended public schools and completed his bachelor's degree at Pacific Union College where he majored in English with a minor in history. Bontemps moved to New York City and began teaching at Harlem Academy in 1924, as he simultaneously pursued a writing career. Bontemps returned south in 1931 during the Great Depression, settling in Huntsville, Alabama where he taught at Oakwood Junior College. In 1943 Bontemps earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Chicago and accepted a position as head librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he developed the University’s Langston Hughes Renaissance Collection. He remained at Fisk until 1964, after which Bontemps worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, and Yale University, where he was curator of the James Weldon Johnson Collection. Bontemps wrote extensively and published much of his work. He was acquainted with many Harlem Renaissance writers, artists and intellectuals; among them: Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, W.E.B. Dubois, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer. He was also the recipient of writing awards from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League (NUL). In addition his children’s history book Story of the Negro received the Jane Addams Book Award and recognition as a Newbery Honor Book. In 1926, he married Alberta Johnson and together they had six children. Bontemps died at his home in Nashville in 1973.
- Interviewed by Henry G. La Brie III on July 31, 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:
- Digital Project:
- Time Based Media
- Persistent URL: