As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve gotten more interested in the specific connections of the “New Negro Renaissance” that I took up in my book to my own specific location in Harrisburg. While we tend to think of cultural movements as emanating and developing only in the major metropolitan centers (and so we equate the New Negro Renaissance with Harlem, or at most with Harlem and Chicago), it was in truth a national and even international movement, that touched culture in many different times and places. Harrisburg, I learned a few years ago, was a well known center for jazz and a regular stop for big bands and jazz and blues musicians such as Cab Calloway and many other large and lesser lights.
This past week my colleague Jean Corey sent me a clipping (which she received via Harrisburg historian Calobe Jackson) regarding Alice Dunbar Nelson. I had absolutely zero inkling that Dunbar Nelson was associated with Harrisburg at all, but she apparently lived here for at least a couple of years after her second marriage. The attached clip from the Harrisburg Telegraph notes her wedding to Robert J. Nelson who worked in the state government. There are a fairly large number of references to Alice Dunbar and Dunbar-Nelson in the Harrisburg Telegraph, even after she apparently left the city–references to speaking engagements at Harrisburg churches and the like. I’ll have to follow up further later.
At this point I haven’t been able to determine much more than these scant biological connections, but I am intrigued with the role that regions some distance from our cultural centers end up playing a role, major or minor, in the lives of our writers and in the larger movements that they create. I discovered a similar connection to Alice Dunbar Nelson that I’ll note in a later post.