Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

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Rudolph Fisher papers

Brown University Archives

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146

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the highlights of this collection are the twenty-six drafts and manuscripts of Fisher’s writings, both published and unpublished.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.