The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the establishment of an annual James Weldon Johnson Fellowship in African American Studies in 2008. This fellowship is designed to permit outstanding scholars to devote a full academic year in residence at Yale University to research and writing in connection with the James Weldon Johnson Collection in the Beinecke Library.
Founded in 1941 by Carl Van Vechten, the James Weldon Johnson Memorial collection stands as a memorial to Dr. James Weldon Johnson and celebrates the accomplishments of African American writers and artists, beginning with those of the Harlem Renaissance. Grace Nail Johnson contributed her husband's papers, leading the way for gifts of papers from Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, Walter White and Poppy Cannon White, Dorothy Peterson, Chester Himes, and Langston Hughes. The collection also contains the papers of Richard Wright and Jean Toomer, as well as smaller groups of manuscripts and correspondence of such writers as Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and Wallace Thurman.
For the 2008-2009 academic year the Beinecke Library is appointing Emily Bernard, Associate Professor of English and ALANA U. S. Ethnic Studies at the University of Vermont, as the James Weldon Johnson Fellow. Professor Bernard has edited two books. Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten (2001) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Some of My Best Friends: Writers on Interracial Friendship (2004) was chosen by the New York Public Library for its Book for the Teen Age 2006 list. Her essay "Teaching the N Word" appeared in Best American Essays 2006. During the 2008-09 academic year, Professor Bernard will be conducting research for an upcoming book tentatively entitled, White Shadows: Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance. The book will cast new light on the dynamic between Van Vechten, a controversial white patron of African American arts communities, and his black friends and protégés during the 1920s and beyond, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nella Larsen. White Shadows is scheduled to be published by Yale University Press in 2009.
Thanks to the generosity and cooperation of the Yale African American Studies Department, Professor Bernard will occupy an office with that department and will be able to participate in its wide range of scholarly activities.
Images: Photograph of James Weldon Johnson at his desk; Inaugural James Weldon Johnson Fellow Emily Bernard.