James Weldon Johnson, author, educator, diplomat, civil rights activist

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. Johnson may be best remembered for his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917. Johnson established his reputation as a writer, and was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture. He was a prominent and influential voice of the Renaissance. In 1934 he was the first African-American professor to be hired at New York University.… Read More

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Johanna Bethune, philanthropist, educator

Johanna (Graham) Bethune co-founded the New York Orphan Asylum at Barrow and Fourth Streets with Mrs. Alexander Hamilton  and started the city’s first school for “young ladies.” She gave the city the land for Bethune Street, in the West Village, which is named for her. Ms. Bethune is often described as an “early 19th-century philanthropist and educator who ceded the land for the street to the city.” This and the school allowed African students and at times over 50% of the students were black. One of the first opportunities for black children in the early 1800s to attend free school. Bethune… Read More

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Marion Tanner, the inspiration for Auntie Mame

Marion Tanner (1891-1985), self-described as ”the ultimate Greenwich Village eccentric” and the apparent model for the madcap fictional character Auntie Mame. Known as one of Greenwich Village’s most colorful inhabitants, Miss Tanner, in 1927, bought a red brick house at 72 Bank Street, and for many years it was a haven and salon for struggling artists, writers, freethinkers, radicals and a wide spectrum of what Miss Tanner sometimes called ”Bohemian types.” Miss Tanner devoted much of her life to caring for children from broken homes, and, although she had none of her own, she always had homeless children living with… Read More

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