Rudolph Fisher papers, 1919-1983

(bulk, 1919-1934)


John Hay Library , Special Collections
Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146
email: hay@brown.edu

Published in 2013

Collection Overview

Title:Rudolph Fisher papers
Date range:1919-1983, (bulk 1919-1934)
Creator:Fisher, Rudolph, 1897-1934
Extent:2.0 Linear feet
Abstract:The Rudolph Fisher papers primarily contain various drafts and published copies of twenty-six Rudolph Fisher short stories and novels, as well as book reviews and essays. The collection also contains correspondence, publicity materials, personal papers, family papers and newsclippings. Materials cover Fisher’s life from 1919 to his death in 1934, as well as the work on behalf of Fisher done by his sister, Pearl, until 1983.
Language of materials:English
Repository:John Hay Library , Special Collections
Collection number:MS.1U.F5

Scope & content

The Rudolph Fisher papers consist of Fisher’s writings, correspondence, publicity and newspaper clippings – the majority of which is related to his novels. Also contained in the collection are papers relating to Fisher’s immediate family, namely his wife, Jane, son, Hugh and sister, Pearl.

Among the highlights of this collection are the twenty-six drafts and manuscripts of Fisher’s writings, both published and unpublished. A number of these items are handwritten or contain handwritten edits throughout the piece. Included in the writings are Fisher’s famous stories, “City of Refuge,” "Miss Cynthie,” and “High Yaller,” as well as three printing drafts of Fisher’s first novel, The Walls of Jericho. Fisher’s writings also contain book reviews written by Fisher for The New York Herald Tribune and other publications. Within the writings are a couple of stories, each known by two different titles. "The Caucasian Invades Harlem" was published under the title, "The Complexion of Negro Night Clubs." "The Incident in Harlem, or Perryn Joel Passes" was later known as, "Passing for Black: An Incident in Harlem."

Correspondence in the collection is comprised of letters to and from Fisher’s many publishers, including Atlantic Monthly, Edward O’Brien and Story. These publisher letters range from rejection letters to invitations to publish more material. Fan mail also accounts for a number of letters, primarily complimenting Fisher on The Conjure-Man Dies. Personal letters, addressed to “Bud,” Fisher’s nickname, discuss literature and daily events. These include a letter from Nancy Cunard to Rudolph Fisher, from A.D. Mead, Vice President of Brown, to Fisher, and from Langston Hughes to Pearl Fisher. Letters from Edward A. Balloch, Dean of Howard University, and J. Stanley Durkee, President of Howard, address Fisher’s funding issues in attending the university.

The personal papers of Rudolph Fisher include transcripts from Brown University, death announcements and funeral arrangements. Included in this series are sympathy telegrams from Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Thurston, Countee Cullen, Alain Locke, and other notable figures, to his widow, Jane.

Publicity contains the original book jacket draft for The Walls of Jericho. Also included is a review of Fisher’s first novel, The Walls of Jericho, by Mary White Ovington, the Chair of the NAACP in 1928. Fisher’s dramatic version of The Conjure-Man Dies was performed by the Federal Theatre Project of New York in 1934. This series contains playbills, photographs and programs from this event and the performance in Cleveland, Ohio a few months following.

The Rudolph Fisher papers contain helpful information about the writing and publishing process of one of the most prolific writers in the Harlem Renaissance. This collection also contains many of the newspaper and journal articles written about Fisher, both during his life and after, providing an interesting view of the public’s response to his life and his work.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged into the following series:
  • Series 1. Writings
  • Series 2. Correspondence
  • Series 3. Publicity
  • Series 4. Personal Papers
  • Series 5. Family Papers
  • Series 6. Newsclippings
Series 1 (Writings) is comprised of twenty-five short stories, one novel and four book reviews, separated accordingly. Each genre is arranged alphabetically. Series 2 (Correspondence, 1921-1983) contains three subseries; Personal letters to and from Rudolph Fisher, personal letters to and from the Fisher family, and letters to and from publishers. Each subseries is arranged chronologically, with undated materials at the end of each subseries. Series 3 (Publicity) consists of materials associated with novels, plays and events relating to Rudolph Fisher. The material is arranged by title of the event or publication, and then chronologically. Series 4 (Personal Papers) includes materials relating to Fisher's schooling, health, death and funeral arrangements, arranged chronologically. Series 5 (Family Papers) contains three subseries; Jane Ryder Fisher Papers, Pearl Fisher Papers, and Hugh Fisher Papers. Each subseries is arranged chronologically. Series 6 (Newsclippings) is comprised of newspapers clippings about Rudolph Fisher arranged chronologically.

Biographical note

Rudolph John Chauncy Fisher, "Bud," was born to Reverend John Wesley and Dora Fisher on May 9, 1897 in Washington D.C. Fisher grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating from Classical High School in 1915, Fisher went on to Brown University where he majored in English and biology. While at Brown, Fisher won a number of honors, including the Carpenter Prize Speaking contest, and was selected for Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Delta Sigma Rho. Because of his noted oration skills, Fisher was selected to be both Class Day Orator and Commencement Day Speaker for his class of 1919. In 1920, Fisher returned to Brown for his A.M. in biology.

Following his Master’s degree at Brown, Fisher moved on to medical school at Howard University in Washington D.C. He was equally as successful at Howard and graduated with high honors in 1924. During the same year, Fisher married Jane Ryder, a Washington D.C. school teacher, and fellow minister’s child. Fisher was then selected as a Fellow of the National Research Council at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, focusing on biology. In 1927, Fisher began to work in New York City hospitals as a specialist in roentgenology, an early form of radiology. As the Superintendent of International Hospital in New York City, Fisher conducted a great deal of research and published a number of scientific articles. He was also a First Lieutenant, MC of the 369th Infantry of the New York National Guard.

While studying and working in the medical field, Fisher wrote numerous short stories and two novels. “The City of Refuge,” Fisher’s first short story, was accepted for publication at Atlantic Monthly in 1923. Following this first success, Fisher has many stories published in well-known publications such as: Opportunity, Crisis, McClure’s, and Story. “The City of Refuge” and “Miss Cynthie” were both selected for Edward O’Brien’s Best Short Stories, in 1925 and 1934.

In 1928, Fisher released his first novel, The Walls of Jericho, to rave reviews in both American and British publications. The Conjure-Man Dies, published in 1932, also received strong reviews, hailing Fisher as the first black mystery writer. Fisher also wrote reviews for many titles, including those later recognized as key works of the Harlem Renaissance, printed in The New Amsterdam and The New York Herald Tribune.

Before his death in 1934, Fisher dramatized his second novel, The Conjure-Man Dies. Sadly, Fisher died before he saw his play performed by the Federal Theatre Players at the Lafayette Theatre in New York. The play enjoyed a long run at the Lafayette and became an outdoor production, traveling around New York City parks. Later, the play was performed by the Karamu Plays of Cleveland, Ohio – also part of the Federal Theatre Project.

In addition to his scholarly and writing talents, Fisher was a talented musician. He wrote and arranged many African-American spirituals – though he never published them. Notably, he wrote and arranged music for Paul Robeson.

Rudolph Fisher suffered from an intestinal ailment in 1934 that required multiple surgeries in six months. The third surgery proved fatal, and Fisher died December 26, 1934. His death was a shock to the black literary community. Jane Ryder Fisher received sympathy notes from Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Thurston, Alain Locke and other known authors and publishers who helped to create the canon of Harlem Renaissance literature. Hughes later wrote admiringly about Fisher in his autobiography, The Big Sea.

Access & Use

Access to the collection: There are no restrictions on access, except that the collection can only be seen by prior appointment. Some materials may be stored off-site and cannot be produced on the same day on which they are requested.
Use of the materials: All researchers seeking to publish materials from the collections of the John Hay Library are requested to complete a Notice of Intent to Publish, prior to reproducing, quoting, or otherwise publishing any portion or extract from this collection. Although Brown University has physical ownership of the collection and the materials contained therein, it does not claim literary rights. It is up to the researcher to determine the owners of the literary rights and to obtain any necessary permissions from them.
Preferred citation:Rudolph Fisher papers, MS-1U-F5, Brown University Archives.
Contact information: John Hay Library , Special Collections
Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146
email: hay@brown.edu

Administrative Information

ABOUT THE COLLECTION 
Acquisition: Donated by Pearl Fisher in April 1951. A later donation was made by Laurel Fisher in March 2003.
Processing information: This collection was arranged and described by Amy Greer, student at the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
ABOUT THE FINDING AID 
Author:Finding aid prepared by Amy Greer.
Encoding:This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-02-25

Additional Information

Related material:
  • Brown University Archives, Biographical Files Collection
  • Fisher notebook, 1923-1924 (OHA158), Otis Historical Archives, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C
  • Fisher (Rudolph) family collection, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, New York
  • Rudolph Fisher collection, 1925-1926, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
Separated material: The book signed by Rudolph Fisher is cataloged separately and can be found in the Library's catalog under the heading: Fisher, Rudolph; or, The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem
Other information:
    Brown University Library catalog record for this collection: Rudolph Fisher papers

Inventory


Series 1. Writings
2.0 boxes
Box 1-3

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 1, Folder 1Book Review: "Black No More" by G. Schuyler, New York Herald Tribune
1931 February 1
Box 1, Folder 2Book Review: "Black No More" by George Schuyler: Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 3Book Review: "Infants of the Spring" by Wallace Thurman, New York Herald Tribune
1932 February 21
Box 1, Folder 4Book Review: "One Way to Heaven" by Countee Cullen, New York Herald Tribune
1932 February 28
Box 1, Folder 5Book Review: "Gingertown" by Claude McKay, New York Herald Tribune
1932 March 27
Box 1, Folder 6"Across the Airshaft:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 7"Across the Airshaft:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 8"Across the Airshaft:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 9"Across the Airshaft:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 10"The Backslider:" As Published in McClure's
1927 August
Box 1, Folder 11"Blades of Steel:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 12"The Caucasian Invades Harlem:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 13"The City of Refuge:" Typed Manuscript with Edits
Box 1, Folder 14"The Common Meter:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 15"The Common Meter:" As Published in the Illustrated Featrue Section of the Negro News Syndication
1930 February
Box 1, Folder 16"The Complexion of Negro Night-Clubs:" As Published in Harper's Bazaar
1926 April
Box 1, Folder 17"Dust:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 1, Folder 18"The Emancipation of Science:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 19"The Emancipation of Science:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 20"Ezekiel:" As Published in Junior Red Cross News
1932 Mar
Box 1, Folder 21"Ezekiel Learns:" As Published in Junior Red Cross News
1933 February
Box 1, Folder 22"Fire By Night:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 23"Guardian of the Law:" As Published in Opportunity
1933 March
Box 1, Folder 24"Harlem, The Negro Metropolis:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 25"Harlem, The Negro Metropolis:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopies)
Box 1, Folder 26"High Yaller:" As Published in The Crisis
1925 October
Box 1, Folder 27"High Yaller:" Illustrated by Laura Wheeler as Published in The Crisis
1925 November
Box 1, Folder 28"Incident in Harlem, or Perryn Joel Passes:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 1, Folder 29"The Lindy Hop:" Handwritten Manuscript with Edits
Box 1, Folder 30"The Lindy Hop:" Handwritten Manuscript with Edits (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 31"The Lindy Hop:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 1, Folder 32"The Lindy Hop:" Typed Draft with Edits (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 33"The Lindy Hop:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 34"The Lindy Hop:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 35"The Lost Love Blues:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 1, Folder 36"The Lost Love Blues:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 37"The Lost Love Blues:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 38"The Man Who Passed:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 1, Folder 39"The Man Who Passed:" Typed Draft with Edits (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 40"Miss Cynthie:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 1, Folder 41"Miss Cynthie:" Typed Draft with Edits (Photocopy)
Box 1, Folder 42"Miss Cynthie:" Typed Manuscript
Box 1, Folder 43"Miss Cynthie:" As Published in Story
1933 June
Box 2, Folder 1"One Month's Wages:" Typed Manuscript
Box 2, Folder 2"One Month's Wages:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 2, Folder 3"Passing for Black: An Incident in Harlem:" Typed Manuscript
Box 2, Folder 4"Passing for Black: An Incident in Harlem:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopies)
Box 2, Folder 5"The Perfect Understanding:" Typed Manuscript
Box 2, Folder 6"The Perfect Understanding:" Typed Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 2, Folder 7"The Promised Land:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 2, Folder 8"Ringtail, or Cyril Sebastian Best:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 2, Folder 9"Skeeter:" Handwritten Manuscript
Box 2, Folder 10"Skeeter:" Handwritten Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 2, Folder 11"Skeeter:" Typed Draft with Edits
Box 2, Folder 12"Skeeter:" Typed Draft with Edits (Photocopy)
Box 2, Folder 13"War Hero:" Handwritten Incomplete Draft
Box 2, Folder 14"White Writers of Current Black Fiction:" Handwritten Manuscript
Box 2, Folder 15"White Writers of Current Black Fiction:" Handwritten Manuscript (Photocopy)
Box 3, Folder 1The Walls of Jericho: Typed Draft with Edits
Box 3, Folder 2The Walls of Jericho: Typed Draft with Edits (photocopy), pages 1-112
Box 3, Folder 3The Walls of Jericho: Typed Draft with Edits (photocopy), pages 113-224
Box 3, Folder 4The Walls of Jericho: Publication Draft with Edits
Box 3, Folder 5The Walls of Jericho: Quarto Draft
Box 3, Folder 6The Walls of Jericho: Publication Draft

Series 2. Correspondence
5.0 folders
Box 4

Subseries 1. Personal letters to and from Rudolph Fisher, 1921-1933
2.0 folders
Box 4

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 1Personal Letters
1.0 folder
1921-1932
Box 4, Folder 2Personal Letters
1.0 folder
1932-1933, undated

Subseries 2. Personal letters to and from the Fisher family, 1935-1983
1.0 folder
Box 4, Folder 3

Subseries 3. Letters to and from publishers, 1926-1979
2.0 folders
Box 4

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 4Letters to and from publishers
1926-1933
Box 4, Folder 5Letters to and from publishers
1934-1979

Series 3. Publicity
13.0 folders
Box 4

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 6The Walls of Jericho: Original Book Cover Art
Box 4, Folder 7Book Review of The Walls of Jericho by Mary White Ovington
1928 September 21
Box 4, Folder 8Advertisement for The Conjure-Man Dies, Publisher's Weekly
1932 July 9
Box 4, Folder 9Newspaper Ad for The Conjure-Man Dies, New York Herald Tribune
1932 Jul 31
Box 4, Folder 10Biography and Advertisement for The Conjure-Man Dies Book Jacket
Box 4, Folder 11Playbill from "Conjur-Man Dies" at the Negro Theatre
1936 March 11
Box 4, Folder 12Four Photographs from Performance of "The Conjure-Man Dies" at the Lafayette Theatre
1936 March 11
Box 4, Folder 13Poster from "The Conjure-Man Dies" at the Lafayette Theatre
Box 4, Folder 14Play poster of "The Conjure-Man Dies" at the Lafayette Theatre
Box 4, Folder 14"The Conjure Man Dies:" Playbill from Karamu Theatre
Folder 4, Reel 16Brochure for New York Public Library's Schomburg Collection
Box 4, Folder 17Brief Biography written for New York Public Library Exhibit by Pearl Fisher
Box 4, Folder 17"Rudolph Fisher's Unpublished Manuscripts: Description and Commentary" by Leonard J. Deutsch
Box 4, Folder 19Brown University Transcript, A.B. 1915-1919 and A.M. 1920
1927 August 8
Box 4, Folder 20Letters of Recommendation
1918 Nov 9, 1921 Jun 29
Box 4, Folder 21Resume and Publications
1933
Box 4, Folder 22Photograph of Unidentified People
Box 4, Folder 23Photocopy of Photograph of an Annual Banquet of the Howard Medical Club of New York City
1931 May 01
Box 4, Folder 24Army Death Announcements
1934 December 27
Box 4, Folder 25Sympathy Telegram from Alain Locke
1934 December 27
Box 4, Folder 26Sympathy Telegrams from Zora Neale Thurston and Countee Cullen
1934 December 27-28
Box 4, Folder 27Sympathy Telegrams from Rousmanaier Alston and Hubert T. Delany
1934 December 27-29
Box 4, Folder 28Sympathy Telegrams from Countee Cullen and Blanche and Alfred Knopf
1934 December 28-1935 January 2
Box 4, Folder 29Funeral Service Music and Program
1934 December 29

Series 5. Family Papers
6.0 folders
Box 4

Subseries 1. Jane Ryder Fisher papers
1.0 folder
Box 4, Folder 30

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 30Copyright Renewal of The Conjure-Man Dies
1960 April 6

Subseries 2. Pearl Fisher
1.0 folder
Box 4, Folder 31

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 31Estate of Pearl Fisher
1976 October 20

Subseries 3. Hugh Fisher
4.0 folders
Box 4

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 32Letter to Hugh from unknown about "Katcha and the Devil"
Box 4, Folder 33"Katcha and the Devil: A Musical Play"
1958
Box 4, Folder 34Photocopy of "Katcha and the Devil"
Box 4, Folder 35Hugh Fisher's Death Certificate
1964 July 2

Series 6. Newsclippings
17.0 folders
Box 4

ContainerDescriptionDate
Box 4, Folder 36Book Reviews of The Walls of Jericho
1928 August 5 - 1932 February 21
Box 4, Folder 37Book Review of The Walls of Jericho, Opportunity
1928 November
Box 4, Folder 38Article by Alain Locke in Opportunity, 1928: A Retrospective Review"
1929 January
Box 4, Folder 39"The Left Hand of Rudolph Fisher," Providence Journal
1929 January
Box 4, Folder 40"Dr. Fisher Pictures to Teachers of English Tragedy of Negro Attempting to be White," Boston Sunday Globe
1929 January
Box 4, Folder 41"20,000 in New York Pass for White" and "Literary Drama in Colored," New York Post
1929 January
Box 4, Folder 42"Pawtucket Club Hears Authority on Colored Race," Providence Bulletin
1929 January
Box 4, Folder 43"A Bookman's Daybook," New York Sun
1929 January
Box 4, Folder 44Book Reviews of The Conjure-Man Dies
1932 July 27 - 1933 January 1
Box 4, Folder 45Obituary, New York Amsterdam News
1934 December 29
Box 4, Folder 46Review of Karamu Theatre's The Conjure-Man Dies, Cleveland Plaindealer
1936 August 13
Box 4, Folder 47"Lafayette Playgroup is on Top," New York Amsterdam News
1936 August 13
Box 4, Folder 48New York Public Library exhibit of Rudolph Fisher, New York Amsterdam News
1951 May 12
Box 4, Folder 49"Our People," New York Amsterdam News
1951 May 12
Box 4, Folder 50WCBS-TV Series Exploring Stories of Langston Hughes and Rudolph Fisher
1970 March 14
Box 4, Folder 51Review of An Anthology of American Negro Literature
Box 4, Folder 52Photograph of Fisher and other writers, New York Amsterdam News