The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of American Negro Arts and Letters was founded in 1941 by Carl Van Vechten in honor of James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938). The collection celebrates the accomplishments of African American writers and artists, with a strong emphasis on those of the Harlem Renaissance. Grace Nail Johnson contributed her husband’s papers, leading the way for gifts from many of Johnson’s friends and colleagues. A writer, cultural critic, and photographer, Van Vechten was also a visionary collector. His donation of books, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia as well as his ongoing advocacy for contributions from literary friends and fellow writers established the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection as one of the most significant archives documenting African American arts and letters.
Collection Highlights Exhibited in Multitudes: A Celebration of the Yale Collection of American Literature: Books, manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection (including materials from the James Weldon and Grace Nail Johnson Papers, the Langston Hughes Papers, the Zora Neale Hurston Papers) and from the Carl Van Vechten Papers. James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection–Checklist & Object Descriptions