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Julius Echters was a mighty and influential man in renaissance Würzburg. As a prince-bisshop he erected beautiful castles, fought wars, founded a hospital and a university, loved wine and loved books. Result of that last passion was an impressive collection of books, of which many where lost in a fire in 1572. In the years after the fire he collected a new library. One of the rarest object in that collection is his round-book (the only known renaissance example): made from five printed Antwerp editions, and fabricated by a top notch bookbinder. He added some paper to the original rectangular books in order to get the circular format, he made a refined binding and he decorated the book edges. The result is astonishing. See the site (in German) of the Würzburg University Library:

LGBT African Americans of the Harlem Renaissance


In the 1920’s Harlem was a bustling neighborhood and hubspot for African American artistic excellence. It was home to writers, philosophers, actors, musicians, and the like who all helped contribute to an era of great growth for African American art, literature, and culture.

During this time, Harlem was often welcoming for LGBT people and they formed a community, hanging out at famous spots like Connie’s Inn and the lavish parties held in the home of A’Lelia Walker. 

In celebration of Pride Month this Five You Should Know post identifies black cultural icons of the Harlem Renaissance who identified as LGBT, both publicly and privately. 


James Baldwin

A literary genius, James Baldwin explored the themes of race, sexuality, and class in his writing. A staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Baldwin moved abroad in his early twenties to distance himself from American prejudice and would spend most of his life living away from the United States. One of his most famous works, “The Fire Next Time” is still used to illustrate and facilitate discussion around race today.

A celebrated writer and activist, Baldwin also maintained close relationships with other literary heavyweights like Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, and Maya Angelou.

More on Baldwin’s life and legacy in this New York Times Obituary.


Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith started her blues career singing on the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit that catered to African American audiences and performers. Her powerful voice caught the attention of Clarence Williams, a popular composer during the 1920s. Smith recorded her first single, “Down-hearted Blues” with Williams and became the most successful vaudeville blues singer of her time. She would go on to record with other jazz instrumentalists  including: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Tommy Ladnier, and James P. Johnson.

Smith along with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, and Gladys Bentley defied the common gender stereotypes of the times and they often sang lyrics hinting at their love for other women, although Bentley is the only one to have publicly confirmed her sexuality.

Listen to Smith’s voice.


Mabel Hampton

Mabel Hampton was a writer, activist, and former dancer. She moved to New York City in her early twenties and first worked as a domestic.

Hampton was heavily involved in theater, dancing in cabarets like the Garden of Joy and even appeared in several all-black productions at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. In the early 1920’s Hampton was arrested on trumped up prostitution charges and was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Reform School for Women. 

Listen as Hampton discusses being “in the life” during the 1920’s in Harlem.


Richard Bruce Nugent

Richard Bruce Nugent was born and raised in Washington, DC to a family in DC’s high black society. He eventually met and befriend Langston Hughes at Georgia Douglas Johnson’s famous artistic salon and the two would go on to publish, Fire!!, a black revolutionary literary magazine. They later became prominent members of the Harlem Renaissance scene. Since Nugent was openly gay, he would draw and write under the pseudonym “Richard Bruce” to avoid igniting the disapproval of his family, 

His most famous work, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” was the first published African American literary work to feature a prominent gay theme. 


Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley began her blues career singing at rent parties and buffet flats in Harlem, New York. As her popularity grew, she began performing at Harry Hansberry’s Clam House, a notorious speakeasy in “Jungle Alley” that was frequented by LGBT people during the 1920s.

Openly lesbian, Bentley wore men’s formal wear during many of her performances and her powerful voice was backed by men dressed in drag. She would later denounce her lesbianism during the McCarthy era in a now famous piece published in Ebony Magazine entitled “I Am Woman Again.” 

Post compiled by Lanae S., Digital Content Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 


Warts? Stomach pains? Rheumatism? Robert Morton has a cure for that in his 1778-1785 diary. This diary was written on the blank leaves of a 1778 Philadelphia almanac and opens with a description of someone being hung as a British spy. [1990.194]
To Cure WartsRub them Dayly with a ReddishOr with Juice of DandelionOr of Marygold FlowerOr Water in Which SaltArmoniac is Dissolved
Pain in the Stomach with Coldness & WindSwallow five or Six Cornsof White Pepper for Six or Seven mornings
Cure for the RheumatismTake one hanfull of LignumVita Chips, One spoonfull of Mustard Seed put theminto a quart Bottle of SpiritsLet them stand for 12 or 24 hours & drink thereof as often as You Can bear it but atLeast Morning & Evening
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Warts? Stomach pains? Rheumatism? Robert Morton has a cure for that in his 1778-1785 diary. This diary was written on the blank leaves of a 1778 Philadelphia almanac and opens with a description of someone being hung as a British spy. [1990.194]

To Cure Warts
Rub them Dayly with a Reddish
Or with Juice of Dandelion
Or of Marygold Flower
Or Water in Which Salt
Armoniac is Dissolved

Pain in the Stomach with Coldness & Wind
Swallow five or Six Corns
of White Pepper for Six 
or Seven mornings

Cure for the Rheumatism
Take one hanfull of Lignum
Vita Chips, One spoonfull 
of Mustard Seed put them
into a quart Bottle of Spirits
Let them stand for 12 or 24 
hours & drink thereof as often 
as You Can bear it but at
Least Morning & Evening


Sumerian Foundation Stone

This stone foundation tablet bears an inscription in Sumerian dedicated from the ruler Gudea to the gods Ningirsu, the titulary deity of the city of Lagash whose name appears in the first line of this tablet, and Enlil, one of the most powerful gods in the Mesopotamian pantheon whose name appears in the third line. Both of these deities’ names are preceded by the divine determinative, which resembles an asterisk. (Source)

Lagash II Period, c. 2200-2100 BCE.

The Walters Art Museum. Photo from CDLI.

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