Personal piece of Harlem Renaissance Putnam, remembering Regina Anderson Andrews
Harlem Renaissance Putnam’s Personal Piece
Remembering Regina Anderson Andrews
Behind Renaissance artists from Harlem to New York, tucked between the pages of Langston Hughes and the melodies of Louis Armstrong, hides an ensemble of unsung heroes of the time – figures who encouraged art to flourish in their own communities, and connected and celebrated the artists who made it.
One of these heroes has been an integral part of community development in Putnam County, carrying a legacy on her shoulders: Regina Anderson Andrews. Best known for her work as a New York librarian during the Harlem Renaissance era, Regina Anderson Andrews’ story is deeply linked to that of Putnam: After her retirement, Andrews lived in a house on Long Pond Road ( now Hill Street) in Mahopac. She was a devoted member of the Mount Hope Methodist Church, of which her husband William T. Andrews, legal assistant to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a long-time member of New York State, part of the board of directors. Beyond that, Andrews was also involved in the Putnam County Human Rights Public Meeting. Andrews’ work for the Harlem Renaissance spread to Putnam County, manifesting itself in dedicated community service and making Andrews a prominent resident of the county. Her connections stretched far and wide and she brought them to life in her new hometown, broadening the perspectives of many in her community.
Born in Chicago in 1901, the daughter of a lawyer and an artist, it’s no surprise that Andrews is dedicated to celebrating the arts and uplifting the communities around her. Regina began her career in Chicago in 1921, as a library assistant for the Chicago Public Library. In 1923, she was hired to work at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem. Throughout her time there, she was praised for her work ethic and resourcefulness, focusing on community outreach with branch manager Ernestine Rose and playing a particularly important role in the creation and the success of the North Harlem Community Forum in which speakers visited the 135th branch to enrich the intellectual life of Harlem and members of its community. Andrews would go on to work at several other NYPL branches during an ongoing struggle for his advancement through the system. WEB Du Bois was a strong advocate for the promotion of Andrews, discovering the colorism within the NYPL system that led Regina Andrews to work only in certain branches of the NYPL, primarily in communities of color, which would hire library workers. black. During this conflict, Andrews was eventually transferred to the 115th Street branch, where she would then become the branch librarian in 1938.
Through his work in the NYPL system, Andrews created a vast social network across Harlem that brought together many great minds of the time. Andrews and his roommates frequently hosted their friends at their home at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem. Their guests were often visionaries and activists, notably Langston Hughes. “A lot of people know writers and painters and so on. of the Harlem Renaissance, but I thought it was important to tell the story of someone with a different career who was also part of the [Renaissance] and I liked the way she connected various members with each other through the library, ”commented Ethelene Whitmire, Andrews biography writer Harlem Renaissance Librarian.
Many of these creatives have also been invited to Andrews in Mahopac. Andrews and her husband welcomed Roger Flood, Herman Moore, Jessie Fauset and Edwin Coates to their home in 1943, including famous contralto Marian Anderson in 1973.
Andrews herself was also involved in the arts, particularly in the field of theater. His involvement began with the Crisis Guild of Writers and Artists (KRIGWA) Players, which worked closely with WEB Du Bois to celebrate black life-focused theater by black creators. After that, Andrews was one of the founders of the Harlem Experimental Theater (HET), offering black playwrights and actors the opportunity to participate in the world of theater. In the HET, Andrews wrote and performed in plays that focused on the experience of black people in America. Her work helped develop the theater scene in Harlem, creating opportunities for the black community to enjoy theatrical performances. In 1980, alongside many of Andrews’ contributions, posters from the Harlem Experimental Theater were on display at the Reed Memorial Library in Carmel.
Perhaps his most remarkable work, however, is his experience working with civic organizations. In 1940, Andrews joined the National Urban League, dedicated to assisting African Americans in their transition to life in the North during the Great Migration. Her involvement in the Urban League eventually led her to represent the League at the United States Mission to the United Nations and the United States National Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and culture (UNESCO). Additionally, she became a member of the United States National Council of Women (NCWUS), eventually becoming their Vice President and representing the Council at the United Nations, in addition to managing the Washington Heights branch of the NYPL. Through such organizations, Andrews has had the opportunity to expand its reach globally, giving women and African Americans a voice to be heard internationally. Andrews also shed light on these issues at the state and county level: Andrews hosted an NCWUS women’s reunion in Carmel in 1980 and was instrumental in helping Black New Yorkers, detailing the experiences of blacks in New York State. With his work in mind, in 1980 Andrews loaned a collection of gifts from his time with UNESCO to the Mahopac Library, told about his trips to the Carmel Historical Society in 1978 and 1980, and loaned a collection. of photos of famous black Americans at the Reed Memorial Library in 1980.
In 1948, Regina and William adopted a daughter named Regina Ann. William died in 1984 and Regina in 1993. They are buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Putnam Valley.
Many personal documents and collection of photographs of Regina Anderson Andrews can be found at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The Historian’s Office would like to thank the New York Public Library and Ethelene Whitmire, author of Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian, (available at amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com) for providing resources and information for this article.