Owen Dodson was a poet, playwright, and director; he was also an influential teacher at Howard University and a leader in the African American theater community. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he wrote a verse play about an African American navy hero, The Ballad of Dorrie Miller (1943). The next year his African American history pageant New World A-Coming was performed at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in conjunction with the Negro Freedom Rally. His first collection of poems, Powerful Long Ladder, was published in 1946.
The Owen Dodson Papers include correspondence with writers and editors, such as Langston Hughes, Margaret Anderson, and Ralph Ellison. The collection also includes manuscripts of many of Dodson’s important poems and plays, including New World A-Coming, Divine Comedy, and Bayou Legend.
A detailed description of the collection is available on line: Owen Dodson Papers; additional uncataloged materials are described briefly in the the Library’s Uncataloged Acquisitions Database: Owen Dodson Papers Addition.
Related manuscript collections in the Beinecke Library include: the Langston Hughes Papers; the James Weldon Johnson Correspondence Files; the Richard Wright Papers, and the Carl Van Vechten Correspondence Files.
Additional materials relating to Owen Dodson may be found in the Library’s Finding Aid Database; recently acquired materials may be found by searching the Library’s Uncataloged Acquisitions Database. Books by Owen Dodson in the Yale University libraries can be located by searching Orbis, the library catalog.
Images: Owen Dodson photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1942; Scene from Divine Comedy.