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Primary Sources for LGBT Research

This guide identifies manuscript collections and rare book collections that may be useful for scholars and researchers of LGBT studies and the history of sexuality in the U.S.

Baldwin, James (MSS 949)

James Baldwin Letters to David Moses, 1971-1983; .25 linear ft. (1 box)

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was born and raised in Harlem, New York.  At age 14, Baldwin became a preacher at a small church in Harlem.  Baldwin graduated from high school in 1942 and eventually moved to Greenwich Village.  His focus shifted from religion to writing, and he became involved with other writers of the time, including Richard Wright.  In 1948, fed up with America’s racism and homophobia, Baldwin moved to France, where he gained enough distance to write about the America he knew.  Baldwin began living part-time in New York in 1957 and became an active participant in the civil rights movement.  In the early 1960s, he moved back to the United States and continued to be an important voice for equality and universal brotherhood through his writing and his activism.  His works have been noted for their homoerotic themes, as well as for their reflection of Baldwin’s views on social justice and inequality. 

The collection consists of correspondence from Baldwin to David Moses from 1971-1983.  They met at a party when Moses was twenty-one.  From then on, Baldwin served as friend, mentor, and confidante to Moses.  The letters from Baldwin to Moses span more than a decade and address personal and professional matters, including Baldwin’s current writing projects, as well as his health.  The letters also offer insight into the creative, financial, and political challenges of writing and publishing.

Billops, Camille and James V. Hatch (MSS 927)

Camille Billops and James V. Hatch Archives; 19.5 linear ft. (39 boxes)

Camille Billops (1933- ) filmmaker and artist, has had an extensive exhibition, teaching, and academic career.  Since 1968, she has been the art editor of Indiana State University’s Black American Literature Forum.  James V. Hatch (1928- ), theatre historian, has held numerous academic positions, most notably as Professor of English and Theatre, City College and University of New York (1965-1993).  With the rise of the civil rights movement and a concomitant increase in racial consciousness, a demand rose for courses in black American art, drama and literature.  Billops and Hatch found that very little had been published on the history of the African American cultural arts, and much that had been published was out of print.  They began collecting primary materials for their students.  Billops began to photograph the works of black artists in exhibitions and private collections.  Hatch began to collect published and unpublished plays, set designs, theater programs, and historical and biographical works.  They also assembled a library of books, periodicals and clippings related to black cultural arts.  Their work and their archives shed new light on movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, the role of black musicians, and the careers of filmmakers, actors, sculptors, photographers, animators, choreographers, vocalists, and painters.  The thriving gay and lesbian subculture of the Harlem Renaissance influenced the broader community and culture and necessarily participated in this production of art, music, and literature.  A complete set of the journal, Artist and Influence, is a part of the Emory collection. 

Bricktop (MSS 831)

Bricktop Papers, 1890-1932; 2 linear ft. (4 boxes, 1 oversized paper)

Bricktop (1894-1984), international cabaret performer and nightclub owner in Paris, Mexico City, and Rome, was born Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith, in Alderson, West Virginia, on August 14, 1894. A natural performer, Bricktop (so-named because of her red hair) began doing local song-and-dance shows as a teenager.  She moved to Paris in 1924, where she performed for almost two decades, garnering international fame with the first in a series of “Bricktop’s” clubs. Bricktop went on to open clubs in Mexico and Rome and remained a sought-after international personality until her death in the U.S. on February 1, 1984.  She ran gay clubs in Paris and New York and was friend and supporter of many lesbian and gay figures in the entertainment world. The collection consists of the papers of Bricktop from 1890-1982 (bulk 1950-1967).  The papers include correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, religious documents, financial records, legal documents and general ephemera. 

Note: Related materials are held in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.

Hughes, Langston (MSS 1089)

Langston Hughes collection, 1932-1967 .5 linear ft. (1 box)

The collection consists of printed material relating to Langston Hughes from 1932-1967. One portion of the collection includes advertising cards, broadsheets, and programs relating to musical or theatrical productions of Hughes' work from 1935-1966. Many of these programs are undated. The other portion of the collection consists of advertising cards, broadsheets, and programs that feature appearances by Hughes, in the form of lectures, readings, or as an honored guest, from 1932-1967.

Jackson, Delilah (MSS 923)

Delilah Jackson Papers, 1852-2001; 26.25 linear ft. (54 boxes, 62 oversized papers)

A life-long resident of Harlem, Delilah Jackson has collected photographs, correspondence, films, and scrapbooks of artists and performers of the Harlem Renaissance. The collection includes oral history interviews of many well-known entertainers, as well as souvenirs and other ephemera that she has collected over the years.

The Harlem Renaissance saw the emergence of a vibrant gay and lesbian subculture, and

many musicians and entertainers openly challenged traditional notions of gender and sexuality.  For example, the collection includes a photograph of Phil Black, one of the many female impersonators of the time who were well received by both gay and straight audiences.

Nat. Assoc. Black and White Men Together (MSS 1071)

National Association of Black and White Men Together Records, 1980-1999; 1 linear ft. (1 box)

The (NABWMT) is a gay multiracial, multicultural, political and social organization founded in 1980. The organization, made up of numerous local chapters, holds social functions, discussion groups, and an annual conference.

The collection contains organizational records and newsletters from the National Association from circa 1980-1999. The collection also includes documents and newsletters produced by many of their local chapters including Atlanta where the founder of the organization lived until his death in 1990.

Patterson, Louise Thompson (MSS 869)

Louise Thompson Patterson Papers and Library, 1909-1996; 17.5 linear ft. (34 boxes, 3 oversized folders, 1 bound volume)

Louise Alone Thompson Patterson (1901-1999) was a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance, the Black cultural and artistic movement in the 1920’s and 1930’s. She led a march in Washington, D.C. for the “Scottsboro Boys” in the 1930s and headed the Angela Davis Defense Fund in the 1970s. Of particular interest in the Louise Thompson Patterson papers are the materials pertaining to Patterson’s relationship with the Communist Party and files relating to her friendship with Langston Hughes from 1932 until his death. It has been argued that homosexuality was an important influence on Hughes’s literary imagination and that many of his poems may be read as gay texts. His own sexual identity has been a point of much debate among Hughes scholars and biographers, as he never explicitly addressed the issue. The Langston Hughes materials consist of correspondence, writings, and a small group of items about Langston Hughes.


The Patterson book library has been catalogued in Library Search; titles may be located using Louise Thompson Patterson as an author search term.

Spivey, Victoria (MSS 809)

Victoria Spivey Papers, ca. 1960-1976; 7.75 linear ft. (17 boxes, 1 oversized folder)

Victoria Spivey (1906-1976), African American blues artist, motion picture actress, and owner of Spivey Records, was born in Houston, Texas to Grant Spivey, a musician, and Addie Smith, a nurse.  Her sisters Leona, Elton “Za Zu” and Addie “Sweet Peas” were also blues artists.  At the age of 20 her first record, Black Snake Blues, was recorded in 1926 with Okeh Records.  She recorded and performed in New York, Chicago, and Missouri through the 1930s with a range of prominent artists including Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, Lucille Hegamin, Dallas Tan Town Topics, Hunter’s Serenaders, and Blind Lemon Jefferson.  After taking a semi-retirement in the 1950s, Spivey returned to performing in the United States and internationally in Europe and in 1962 began her own record company, Spivey Records.  This collection consists of papers of Victoria Spivey and those gathered about Spivey by her last husband Len Kunstadt from ca. 1960-1976.  The papers include personal, business, and biographical documents.  Of particular interest are materials related specifically to blues music and artists, as there is a growing interest in the influence of gay and lesbian performers in the blues culture, as well as the themes of sexuality found in the music.  The collection mainly documents the resurgence of her singing career and her involvement in Spivey Records.

WSB Radio Station, Atlanta (MSS 663)

WSB Radio Station Collection, 1955-1980; 189 linear ft. (189 boxes, 1 oversized folder)

Licensed in 1922, WSB was the first radio station in the south.  Originally owned by the Atlanta Journal, the station broadcast first from the roof of the newspaper's building, then from the Biltmore Hotel, and finally from the headquarters of WSB Radio and WSB-TV on West Peachtree Street.  Governor James M. Cox of Ohio bought the Atlanta Journal and WSB Radio on 1939.  The collection consists of sound recordings of news and other programming of WSB (Radio Station: Atlanta, Ga.) from the 1950s-1970s.  Of particular interest are programs on gay bath houses, gay marriage/benefits, Anita Bryant, “Gays,” “Black Male Homosexuals,” and “A Different Lifestyle.”

Note:  Restrictions on access and reproduction may apply.