George Cleveland Hall Branch archives

Inclusive Dates: 

This record forms part of the Chicago’s Art-Related Archival Materials: A Terra Foundation Resource project funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art. For this project, the Archives surveyed archival repositories throughout the Chicago region to identify art-related materials contained in their holdings. While the Archives of American Art does not own any of the materials described herein, information about those materials and links to the original repositories have been included when available.

Descriptive Summary

28 linear feet of material consisting of administrative files, clippings and articles, photographs, memorabilia, and biographical, subject, and pamphlet files documenting the activities of the George Cleveland Hall branch of the Chicago Public Library and comprising part of the “Special Negro Collection” begun by the Hall branch library’s first director, Vivian G. Harsh. With a few exceptions, the biographical and subject vertical files contain newspaper clippings, journal articles, reprints, and pamphlets from African American publications such as the Chicago Bee, Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, Ebony, and Jet. They include materials on artists John Biggers, Archibald J. Motley Jr., Augusta Savage, Henry Osawa Tanner, Dox Thrash, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff. The subject files include materials on the American Negro Exposition, 1940; Black American Artists Index, 1972; Black Arts Guild, 1973; Chicago Murals, 1967; Lively Arts Series of Black Esthetics, 1970; and Negro in Art Week, 1927.

Biographical Historical Note

The George Cleveland Hall branch of the Chicago Public Library opened in 1932 in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood to serve its largely African American population. Its first and longtime director was Vivian G. Harsh, CPL’s first black librarian, who made the Hall branch library a magnet for Chicago’s African American writers, artists, scholars, and the general public during the 1930s and 1940s. Harsh also set about creating a “Special Negro Collection” that would document the history, life, and achievements of African Americans. The bulk of that collection is now in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, housed in CPL’s Carter G. Woodson Regional Library.