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Student Research in Beinecke Collections

Rachel Kempf, Yale College Class of 2013 “Lost in the Zoo: The Art of Charles Sebree”
written for Professor Robert Stepto's English 306 course, "American Artists and the African-American Book"

Using correspondence from the Countee Cullen Collection, this essay examines the life and work of Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Sebree, focusing on his collaboration with Countee Cullen on the children’s book The Lost Zoo. This essay explores Sebree’s work through the lens of his life experience as evidenced by his communication with Alain Locke during his period of collaboration with Cullen. By comparing documents from the Beinecke’s James Weldon Johnson Collection (MSS 7 Box 2) and correspondence from the Alain Locke Collection at Howard University Moorland Springarn Research Center, this essay reexamines existing explanations of Sebree’s behavior during his collaboration with Countee Cullen and calls attention to the artist’s formative friendship with Alain Locke only briefly mentioned in other examinations of Sebree’s work.

Finally, the essay examines how these personal relationships and individual trials may have influenced Sebree’s work on The Lost Zoo and how his experience with the book may or may not have influenced his future career.

Read the article here: Rachel Kempf, “Lost in the Zoo: The Art of Charles Sebree”

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