The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Carter G. Woodson Regional Library
"Acknowledging and preserving the value of a rich African American Culture"
The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature warmly welcomed the Go On Girl! Archives in 1997 into its illustrious mix of some of our most prominent figures in literature like Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Arna Bontemps, Margaret Walker, Vernon Jarrett, Darlene Clark Hines, and more.
Vivian Gordon Harsh (1890-1960), called the "Lieutenant" by some of her colleagues, was revered by a generation of prominent Black writers and scholars and succeeded in building one of the most important research collections on Black history and literature in the United States. In the late 1920s, one of the founding members of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History headed by Carter G. Woodson began pressing the Chicago Public Library to open a branch in the rapidly expanding South Side Black community. It was then that Harsh was named the first Black librarian in Chicago, in 1932.
Harsh tirelessly expanded the collection through subsequent grants, donations and her own purchases. Despite persistent antagonism from the Chicago Public Library's administration, which did not believe public funds should be expended on such projects, even to this day, the collection has lasted as one of the primary and largest collections in Black history and literature. Harsh encouraged writers such as Richard Wright and Langston Hughes to help build the Special Negro Collection and sponsored book clubs like the Harsh Reader's Circle within the library.
The Harsh Collection located within the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library shares a similar history with the well-known Schomburg Collection in Harlem, New York (founded by Arturo Alfonso Schomburg) in that both collections are housed within public library systems and are open to the public for research. And, both locations share a unique advantage of being the bastions for such movements as the Chicago Renaissance and Harlem Renaissance, major moments within American literature. Harsh, along with Schomburg, was an extraordinary visionary and bibliophile and set the stage for the preservation of Black History.
Learn more about the Manuscript holdings at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection.
Consider Preserving and Documenting Your Club's Literary History!
With the Black literature resurgence at a new high, GOG! Book Club would like to encourage your book club to consider joining us at the Harsh Collection.
For more information on donating your Club's archives contact:Carter G. Woodson Regional Library
9525 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60628