Celebrating Black History Month: Black Authors Who Were Published Before 1950

It’s February and that means it’s Black History Month.

Although I am late in celebrating—in fact, so late that it’s already the end of February!—I thought I would briefly examine black authors, poets, playwrights, and intellectuals and their Sun (personality), Moon (creative side of the mind; writing), Mercury (the strategic side of the mind; rules communication), Venus (aesthetics), and Neptune (creativity) placements to see if what these creatives write on correlates with these planets’ positions. In this specific post I will also look to see if they have any planets in Gemini or Virgo, the Mercury ruled signs; Taurus or Libra, the Venus ruled signs; and Leo or Pisces, the creative signs because these signs are all indicative of creative writing. Here we will look at black authors who were published before 1950.

1. Alexandre Dumas (July 2, 1802 – December 5, 1890)

I hate this life of the fashionable world, always ordered, measured, ruled, like our music-paper. What I have always wished for, desired, and coveted, is the life of an artist, free and independent, relying only on my own resources, and accountable only to myself.

The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
PlanetsSigns
SunLeoGeminiMoon
MoonGeminiVirgoVenus (fall), Saturn, Jupiter (detriment), and South Node
MercuryCancer (retrograde)TaurusMars (detriment)
VenusVirgoLibraUranus
NeptuneScorpio (retrograde)LeoSun (domicile)
PiscesPluto retrograde and North Node

Born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, Alexandre Dumas, pére is one of France’s most prolific and celebrated authors. He was born to a mixed race former Haitian slave father named Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie and a white French woman named Marie Louise Labouret. Thomas-Alexnadre was the son of a Haitian slave woman named Marie Louise Cessette Dumas and white French nobleman and général commissaire in the artillery of the colony named Marquis Antoine-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie. At the age of 14, Thomas-Alexandre went to France to live with his father who left the tobacco and coffee plantation he was born on the year prior. They settled at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where his father assumed the family title of marquis de la Pailleterie.

In France, Thomas-Alexandre lived like that of a typical son of an aristocrat. However, by age 24, he decided to join the French army as a private, the lowest rank there was. His father refused to allow him to use his name, so Thomas-Alexandre adopted his mother’s surname of Dumas, entering Louis XVI’s service as Alexandre Dumas. He was a general by the age of 31, the first soldier of Afro-Antilles origin to reach that rank in the French army and was much revered. In Napoleon’s army he was nicknamed “The Black Devil.”

General Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie

Despite being a renowned solider, Thomas-Alexandre left Napoleon’s army after a disagreement over his Egypt campaign or from pleading poor health. For this he was sentenced to two years in prison or became a prisoner of war in Italy during his trip back to France. In either case, when he was released, he died a short time afterwards, leaving his family impoverished. Dumas was 4 when he passed, and he, his mother, and older sister struggled financially. As a result, Dumas didn’t have much of a formal education (apparently he dropped out of his own free will, though). But that never got in the way of his love for reading and stories. His mother told him all about his father’s glory days in the army, which helped to foster his imagination and the basis for The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844).

The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

By the age of 20 Dumas set out for Paris to be a notary. Because of his father’s legacy, however, Dumas was able to become a scribe for the duc d’Orléans (King Louis Philippe) during the 1830 revolution. On the side, he tried his hand at writing articles for magazines and plays for local theaters. He published his first play, Henry III and His Courts, in 1829 when he was just 27 years old. It was met with much acclaim. The following year Dumas produced his second play titled Christine, which was equally popular. His other plays of Napoleon Bonaparte (1831) and Anthony (1831) were also critically received, so much so that he was able to write full-time.

But although plays are where he got his start in the literary world, Dumas slowly moved towards writing historical novels filled with drama, romance, and adventure. Besides the two already listed earlier, other prominent works of his include Twenty Years After (1845), The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (1847), The Man in the Iron Mask (1847), and The Black Tulip (1850).

Twenty Years After (1845), The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (1847), The Man in the Iron Mask (1847), and The Black Tulip (1850)

With the wealth he gained from writing, Alexandre created his own production studio where he had numerous writers churn out stories and plays that he personally edited and directed, respectively. He also spent much of his earnings on extravagant luxuries that he couldn’t afford to maintain and entertained numerous women despite being married. In fact, after he built his own personal sanctuary called the Chateau de Monte Cristo, Dumas fled to Belgium to avoid creditors (but the main reason was that the current president, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, disapproved of his political views). From there he traveled around Russia where French was spoken and where he was apparently still popular at the time. Dumas published several traveling books on Russia. In 1861, he traveled to Italy and became involved in the Italian unification movement, creating and writing a newspaper called the Indipendente. Finally, Dumas returned to France in 1864 and published books about his adventures in Italy.

Dumas’s house, the Chateau de Monte Cristo

Six years later Dumas died on December 5, 1890 at 68 years old. He was buried near his birthplace of Villers-Cotterêts. However, his death was overshadowed by the Franco-Prussian War and by this time his popularity had waned considerably not only because of his political views and exile, but because literature and literary trends had changed as well.

The tomb of Alexandre Dumas

It wasn’t until the late twentieth century that scholars such as Reginald Hamel and Claude Schopp tried to revive his work and also searched for any missing pieces that Dumas’s work returned to the spotlight. This led to the Paris Métro station being named in his honor in 1970 and the Château de Monte-Cristo being restored and open to the public as a museum. Now French literature would be consider incomplete without his name.


It is perhaps an understatement to say that the legacy of Alexandre Dumas proceeds him. He has written everything from newspaper articles to plays to novels of various genres to children’s books to memoirs to travel books. He also worked with numerous other creatives and ghostwriters, the most notable of them being his own ghostwriter Auguste Maquet. His works, which stretch over 100,000 pages, have been translated into 100 languages across the world and adapted into over 200 films.

So, astrologically, it is really unsurprising that Dumas was such a prolific writer as he has so many Virgo placements, a Leo Sun if he was born after noon, and a Gemini Moon. What I find interesting, however, is that his Mercury is retrograde. I’ve seen other astrologers describe this placement as a person often having a hard time with communication on all levels, but the individual can either be a blabbermouth to overcompensate or not talk much at all. I think this also extends to writing because as someone who also has a natal retrograde Mercury, I tend to talk very little but overwrite all the time. So, it is likely because of his Mercury as well that Dumas wrote so much and even hired many other people to keep pumping out stories under his name (this latter point seems to suggest some 11th and 12th house activity surrounding his Midheaven and/or 10th house).

Having his Mercury in Cancer also seems to suggest that he would have an interest in history and writing about his country and family legacy, especially if his Sun is truly in Leo. However, apparently Dumas wasn’t all that historically accurate and was more focused on writing an exciting story than one that was completely true to the historical period he was writing to. His Neptune is retrograde in Scorpio (which trines his Mercury), perhaps indicating that he liked the passion and darker themes surrounding war and certain historical events of the past but overlooked or scrubbed away the more gruesome and mundane circumstances that accompanied these events.

However, Dumas writing in this way was likely due to the fact that he wrote during the Romanticism period. “Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization, and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular,” writes Encyclopaedia Britannica. “It was also to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general. Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.”

It was characterized by

a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general, and a focus on his passions and inner struggles; a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more important than strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures; an emphasis upon imagination as a gateway to transcendent experience and spiritual truth; an obsessive interest in folk culture, national and ethnic cultural origins, and the medieval era; and a predilection for the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the monstrous, the diseased, and even the satanic.

Dumas wrote in the second phase of this movement which “was less universal in approach and concentrated more on exploring each nation’s historical and cultural inheritance and on examining the passions and struggles of exceptional individuals.”

With a Taurus Mars, Leo Sun, and Cancer retrograde Mercury it should not come as a shock that Dumas fell right into this literary movement. Heightening and glorifying political figures, royalty, and heroic individuals is only something that someone with these placements would indulge it. However, I do find it interesting that emotions and the senses were elevated above reason and intellect, because with a Gemini Moon and a plethora of Virgo placements, it should have been the other way around for Dumas. But it should be remembered that with his Cancer Mercury, all of these placements inherit Cancer’s emotionality.

Dumas likely approached the social and intellectual world from a place of impressions, gut feelings, and how he felt at any given moment, especially since his Mercury was retrograde, which likely deepened his introspective nature. However, Dumas also could have struggled with this as his Mercury and Moon are actually in mutual reception because they are in each other’s signs. So, at times he could have been very rational and cerebral but then at other times he could have been perhaps more impulsive and sensitive.

We saw this in his personal life as Dumas had numerous affairs with all types of high-profile women who were unfortunately very much younger than him. His Leo Sun can indicate a bit of an inflated ego. The English playwright Watts Phillips who was a friend of Dumas later in life even said as much, describing him as “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.”

Dumas saw both great fame and defame in his life but all at the fault of his own hubris. His Sun and/or Leo may have been connected to both his Midheaven/10th house and likely the 12th and/or 6th houses as he had been exiled/fled from France more than once. His Virgo Venus is a bit interesting as this is Venus’s fall position. Here, many astrologers describe people who tend to have “bad luck” or issues surrounding relationships and intimacy. The main problem seems to be that these individuals overthink love or are way too particular or critical of potential partners that they tend to miss out on a lot of opportunities for love. Dumas clearly did not have this problem, as he had four known children out of wedlock (Uranus in Libra). Here then, his Virgo Venus may indicate his writing focusing on history, something that can be very detail-oriented and requires a lot of specialized knowledge. In either case, I find that his chart does fairly represent not only the type of work he wrote but the life he seemed to live.

So heavy is the chain of wedlock that it needs two to carry it, and sometimes three.

Dumas had a high profile affair with American actress Adah Isaacs Menken pictured on the left.

Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.

The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

Notable Works

Plays

Henry III and His Court (1829)

Christine (1830)

Napoléon Bonaparte (1831)

Antony (1831)

Novels

The d’Artagnan Romances consisting of: The Three Musketeers (1844), Twenty Years After (1845), and The Vicomte de Bragelonne (sometimes also known as Ten Years Later) (1847). The latter novel was split into three parts when it was translated into English—The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask.

Captain Pamphile (this deals with race as it has an anti-slavery message) (1839)

The Fencing Master (1840)

The Corsican Brothers (1844)

The Black Tulip (1850)

The Nutcracker (a revision of Ernest Theodor Amadeus Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse. The famous ballet of the same name was based on Alexandre’s version of the story.)

The Wolf Leader (the first known werewolf novel) (1857)

Georges (another novel dealing with slavery, race, and racism) (1843)

The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) (this novel reused a lot of ideas from Georges)

Full Bibliography

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/alexandre-dumas/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4785.Alexandre_Dumas

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ch.cgi?2024

http://www.dumaspere.com/pages/oeuvre/bibliographie.html (It’s in French)

References

Alexandre Dumas. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biblio.com/alexandre-dumas/author/398

Alexandre Dumas. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Dumas

Alexandre Dumas Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.notablebiographies.com/De-Du/Dumas-Alexandre.html

Alexandre Dumas, writer extraordinaire. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://aaregistry.org/story/alexandre-dumas-writer-extraordinaire/

Alvar, Oliver G. (2019, Feb. 14). The Black Writer Who Gave Us Some of the Greatest Characters in Literature. Retrieved from https://culturacolectiva.com/history/alexandre-dumas-black-writer-greatest-characters

Beverton, Alys. (2010, Sept. 13). Alexandre Dumas (Dumas Davy De La Pailleterie), (1802-1870). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/dumas-alexandre-dumas-davy-de-la-pailleterie-1802-1870/

Biography.com Editors. (2014, April 2). Alexandre Dumas Biography. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/writer/alexandre-dumas

Gallaher, John G. (2019, Mar. 21). Alexandre Dumas. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexandre-Dumas-French-general

Reiss, Tom. (2012, Nov.-Dec.). Alexandre Dumas. Retrieved from https://harvardmagazine.com/2012/11/vita-alexandre-dumas

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Alexandre Dumas, pére. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexandre-Dumas-pere

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, Nov. 19). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/Romanticism


2. Rudolph Fisher (May 9, 1897 – December 26, 1934)

In Harlem, black was white. You had rights that could not be denied you; you had privileges, protected by law. And you had money. Everybody in Harlem had money. It was a land of plenty.

“The City of Refuge” (1925)
PlanetsSigns
SunTaurusGeminiMercury (domicile), Pluto, and Neptune
MoonLeoVirgo Jupiter (detriment)
MercuryGeminiTaurusSun and Venus retrograde (domicile)
VenusTaurus (retrograde)Libra
NeptuneGeminiLeoMoon and South Node
Pisces

Born in Washington, D.C. but brought up in Providence, Rhode Island, Rudolph John Chauncey Fisher was the youngest of three children to Reverend John Wesley Fisher and Glendora Williamson Fisher. Academically, Fisher was very bright, graduating Classical High School in 1915 with honors. He went on to major in English and biology at Brown University. Although very successful at orating, winning many competitions such as the Caesar March Premium (in German), the Carpenter Prize, the Dunn Premium, and the intercollegiate public speaking contest at Harvard representing Brown, Fisher went on to study biology and roentgenology/radiology at Howard Medical School and Columbia University.

A year after graduating Howard Medical School in 1925, he married Jane Ryder, a public school teacher, within a year of meeting her. In 1926, they had a son named Hugh, which Fisher nicknamed “The New Negro” in commemoration of The New Negro Movement (later renamed the Harlem Renaissance by scholars), which was based off an anthology edited by Alain Locke in 1925 by the same name.

Speaking of this movement, Fisher is considered to be one of the great writers of that period alongside Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, and Countee Cullen. Fisher and his family first moved to New York so that he could become a member of the National Research Council at Columbia’s University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He opened a private practice in Harlem a year later in 1927 as a roentgenologist/radiologist and X-ray technician.

While in Harlem, he met many other notable Renaissance writers which included Nella Larsen, Walter White, James Weldon Johnson, and Jessie Redmon Fauset. But Fisher’s literary career began a little bit before then. Around 1925, he started to publish several short stories across a variety of black owned papers such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) The Crisis magazine, as well as more white, mainstream magazines such as Atlanta Monthly.

The September 1927 edition of The Crisis illustrated by Aaron Douglas

Like other writers of this period, Fisher wrote a lot about colorism (“High Yaller”; Fisher won the Spingarn Medal for this piece), class differences between the black residents of Harlem (The Walls of Jericho), the day-to-day life of Harlem, and historical pieces that touch upon the African roots of black Americans (Fisher was a Pan-Africanist) and The Great Migration of black people from the south to the north (“The City of Refuge,” “Ezekiel,” “The Promised Land”).

The Walls of Jericho (1928)

In his second and final book, The Conjure Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem (1932), Fisher tried his hand at a mystery. This novel is considered to be the first black detective novel. Fisher was developing it into a play when he died of intestinal cancer at 37 on December 26, 1934. Many speculate the cancer resulted from radiation exposure from the X-ray tests he conducted. Despite this loss, his colleagues Countee Cullen and Anra Bontemps revised the unfinished manuscript and the play was put on at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem and the Federal Theatre Project in 1936.

The Conjure Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem (1932) (left) and what appears to be a family grave of Fisher’s (right)


Fisher is the first author on this list that had a full-time profession that wasn’t related to writing. Without the birth time, it is hard to say “why” he went into radiology despite being so gifted at speaking and also majoring in English. He only had Jupiter in Virgo, the medic of the Zodiac, and only possibly because it was hovering around 0°. Perhaps he had some 2nd and 6th house activity going on, suggesting that his private practice would be where he made the bulk of income from. However, with his Midheaven hypothetically not interacting with these houses, what Fisher ended up being more known for was his literary career, indicating that perhaps either Gemini/Virgo was on the Midheaven, or Mercury/Moon was in aspect to the Midheaven and/or in the 10th house.

In either case, having both Mercury and Neptune in Gemini with a Leo Moon would have indicated an interest and possible talent in writing and orating anyway. Especially with the Moon in Leo, Fisher likely always had creative impulses. With the South Node in Leo as well, this desire to create and to be known and appreciated for what he conceived could have been something he brought from a past life. Perhaps he was a writer in a past life, which is why in this one, he went into a different field that helped the public and was scientific (North Node in Aquarius), at least at first.

With Venus domicile (although retrograde) and with a Venus ruled Sun along with Mercury, Pluto, and Neptune all in Gemini, it would make sense that he would publish stories on the side despite having a more stable career elsewhere. I think his Sun and Venus being in Taurus made him never fully commit to writing full-time. This sign hates changes and prefers to stick with what is tired and true than what is novel and unpredictable. (This is a bit ironic as his North Node was pulling him in this latter direction.) And I’m sure careers in medicine and science were safer and had more longevity than being a writer full-time even way back in the 1920s.

In either case, his writing focusing on the more mundane side of black life in Harlem, safe for his detective novel (retrograde Saturn and Uranus in Scorpio), is very much reflective of his Taurus Sun as well. Earth Sun people…are uncomplicated. Fisher in his writing apparently didn’t want his stories to be all about protest and showcasing a militant type of blackness to a racist white society and audience who couldn’t care less about black people and what they have put them through like other writers of this period did. You could argue that he had a broader approach to his writing that was detached from the white gaze (Aquarius North Node). By focusing on black people and their struggles within their own community, not just white society at large, Fisher ended up showcasing a truly humanistic portrayal of the average black person (Aquarius North Node, Taurus Sun and Venus).

So, with all of this in mind, I would say based off his natal chart it is not surprising Fisher became a renowned writer despite spending most of his short life in a completely different field. If he had lived longer, who knows if he would have stayed in the world of science until his death.

The rhythm persisted, the unfaltering common meter of blues, but the blueness itself, the sorrow, the despair, began to give way to hope.

“The City of Refuge” (1925)

Bibliography

Short Stories

“The City of Refuge” (1925)

“The South Lingers On” (1925)

“Vestige” (1925)

“Ringtail” (1925)

“High Yaller” (1925)

“The Promised Land” (1927)

“Blades of Steel” (1927)

“The Backslider” (1927)

 “Fire by Night” (1927)

“Common Meter” (1930)

“Dust” (1931)

“Ezkiel” (1932)

“Ezkiel Learns” (1933)

“Guardian of the Law” (1933)

“Miss Cynthie” (1933)

“John Archer’s Nose” (1935)

Novels

The Walls of Jericho (1928)

The Conjure Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem (1932)

Essays

“Action of Ultraviolet Light upon Bacteriophage and Filterable Viruses” (1926)

“The Caucasian Storms Harlem” (1927)

“The Resistance of Different Concentrations of a Bacteriophage of Ultraviolet Rays” (1927)

References

Burns, Gates. (1985). Intraracial conflict in Harlem in the fiction of Rudolph Fisher (Master’s thesis, Iowa State University: Ames, IA). Retrieved from https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1108&context=rtd

Gable, Craig. (1998). Rudolph Fisher: An Annotated Bibliography (Master’s thesis, The College at Brockport: State University of New York, Brockport, USA). Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=eng_theses

Hutchinson, George. (2019, Dec. 22). Rudolph Fisher. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rudolph-Fisher

Johnson, Marcia. (2009, May 10). Rudolph Fisher (1897-1934). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/fisher-rudolph-1897-1934/

Rudolph, Fisher. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_Fisher

Rudolph Fisher. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Rudolph+Fisher

Rudolph Fisher, Renaissance man. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aaregistry.org/story/rudolph-fisher-renaissance-man/


3. Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 26, 1960)

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.

PlanetsSigns
SunCapricornGeminiNeptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde, and the North Node
MoonSagittariusVirgoSaturn retrograde
MercuryCapricorn (retrograde)Taurus
VenusSagittariusLibra
NeptuneGemini (retrograde)Leo
PiscesMars

Disclaimer: There is some debate surrounding her birthday and birthplace

Born in Notasulga, Alabama but raised in Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was the fifth of eight children to John Hurston, a sharecropper (and/or carpenter) and Baptist preacher, and Lucy Ann Hurston, a schoolteacher. Eatonville was the first all-black towns in the U.S., and Hurston’s father was elected mayor in 1897.

Although she didn’t start writing until the 1920s, Hurston’s love of literature started early in her life as some northern schoolteachers had visited Eatonville and given Hurston a number of books that opened her mind to literature in 1901. In 1904, her mother died and barely a year later her father remarried. This was highly controversial because this woman was suspected to be his mistress. To make matters worse, the couple swiftly sent Hurston to a Baptist boarding school in Jacksonville after the wedding.

At some point they stopped paying her tuition and she was dismissed. Staying with a variety of other family members as Hurston and her stepmother disliked each other for obvious reasons, Hurston supported herself financially by briefly working as a maid for the lead singer of the Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company. The people there lent Hurston books and exposed her to classical music.

A year later she resumed her formal education by attending Morgan College. This is where the discrepancies surrounding Hurston’s age start because if she was really born in 1891, then she was 26 at the time but Morgan College was the high school division of Morgan State University. So, Hurston had to claim she was born in 1901 so she could qualify to attend Morgan College for free. In either case, she graduated with her high school diploma in 1918.

This same year she enrolled in Howard University in D.C. She took courses in Spanish, English, Greek, and public speaking and earned an associate degree in 1920. Hurston was writing stories around this time, which caught the eyes of professors Alain Locke and Montgomery Gregory. In 1921, Hurston wrote a short story titled, “John Redding Goes to Sea,” and published it in Howard’s Stylus literary magazine. Locke recommended Hurston’s work to Charles S. Johnson, who in 1924, published her second short story, “Drenched in Light” in Opportunity magazine.

In 1925, Hurston received a scholarship to attend Barnard College where she studied anthropology with the distinguished scholar Franz Boas. Despite not majoring in English, Hurston still wrote on the side. In fact, she was heavily involved in the Harlem scene. She befriended Langston Hughes, Couteen Cullen, and many others for instance. She also met Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy white philanthropist and literary patron, who became interested in her work.

Manson had supported other black authors, such as the aforementioned Langston Hughes and Alain Locke, who had recommended Hurston to her. Mason supported Hurston’s trips to the South to conduct anthropological field studies in folklore among black people in the region from 1927 to 1932 with a stipend of $200 per month. Hurston also traveled to Haiti and Jamaica. Her findings were published in various newspapers across the country. This research greatly informed her own literary work.

Hurston doing field research in Haiti in 1936
Photo credit: the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community

In June 1925, Hurston published the short story “Spunk” in Opportunity, which was selected for The New Negro, a landmark anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays focusing on African and African-American art and literature. A year later she published her critically acclaimed short story “Sweat” about a black washerwoman dealing with an unfaithful husband who both doesn’t work and takes her money. In the late 1920s she collaborated with Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, and others in editing the short-lived magazine FIRE!!

Although Hurston was so popular in Harlem that her apartment became a hangout spot, some scholars argue that the mainstream literary scene did not really pay attention to her until she published her anthology of folktales in the book, Mules and Men, in 1935. However, I wonder if by “mainstream” these sources are talking about the predominate white literary scene, which…should just be a given to a certain extent, since although some wealthy white people were interested in what “the negros” were doing in Harlem, this was a minority. I highly doubt the elite of the stuffy, all-white literary scene cared too much unlike these few “kind souls.” Regardless, in 1930, Hurston collaborated with Langston Hughes to write a play titled, Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life, based on some of Hurston’s anthropological work. However, this play never came into fruition and apparently caused their friendship to deteriorate. (The play was finally put on in 1991.)

During the rest of the ‘30s Hurston focused on publishing novels and anthropological work. In 1934, she published her first novel titled Jonah’s Gourd Vine. Three years later she published her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Although many celebrate this book as a staple of black female/black feminist literature today, her male contemporaries at the time slammed the book for its portrayal of black people which they found regressive. Richard Wright in his review writes bitterly,

Miss Hurston can write, but her prose is cloaked in that facile sensuality that has dogged Negro expression since the days of Phillis Wheatley. Her dialogue manages to catch the psychological movements of the Negro folk-mind in their pure simplicity, but that's as far as it goes.
 
Miss Hurston voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theatre, that is, the minstrel technique that makes the "white folks" laugh. Her characters eat and laugh and cry and work and kill; they swing like a pendulum eternally in that safe and narrow orbit in which America likes to see the Negro live: between laughter and tears.
 
Turpin's faults as a writer are those of an honest man trying desperately to say something; but Zora Neale Hurston lacks even that excuse. The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life which is "quaint," the phase which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the "superior" race.

Even Alain Locke, a man who first encouraged Hurston’s writing, made similar remarks:

And now, Zora Neale Hurston and her magical title: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie's story should not be re-told; it must be read. But as always thus far with this talented writer, setting and surprising flashes of contemporary folk lore are the main point. Her gift for poetic phrase, for rare dialect, and folk humor keep her flashing on the surface of her community and her characters and from diving down deep either to the inner psychology of characterization or to sharp analysis of the social background. It is folklore fiction at its best, which we gratefully accept as an overdue replacement for so much faulty local color fiction about Negroes. But when will the Negro novelist of maturity, who knows how to tell a story convincingly -- which is Miss Hurston's cradle gift, come to grips with motive fiction and social document fiction? Progressive southern fiction has already banished the legend of these entertaining pseudo-primitives whom the reading public still loves to laugh with, weap over and envy. Having gotten rid of condescension, let us now get over oversimplication!

Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman also had something to say as well, both going out of their way to write caricatures of Hurston in their novel and autobiography respectively. Kalos-Khan writes that,

Thurman depicted Hurston in his satirical novel Infants of the Spring as Sweetie Mae Carr, a woman who is popular with white audiences and patrons because she “lives up to their conception of what a typical Negro should be” (qtd. Meisenhelder 1). Likewise, Hughes wrote of her in his autobiography, The Big Sea, as being paid by whites “just to sit around and represent the Negro race for them.... To many of her white friends, no doubt, she was a perfect ‘darkie,’ in the nice meaning they give the term—that is a naïve, childlike, sweetly humorous, and highly colored Negro” (185).

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Despite passionate criticisms from these men, some of whom were former friends, Hurston did not stop writing, however. In 1938, she published Moses, Man of the Mountain and Seraph on the Suwanee in 1948, her last and least successful novel. Her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, appeared in 1942.

All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.

However, Hurston’s reputation and legacy began to rapidly deteriorate around this time. In 1948, she was charged with molesting a 10-year-old boy. Apparently, the accusations were false, as she was out of town at the time of the incident, but Hurston’s reputation still took a dive. She relocated to Florida when the charges were dropped and began to write essays that were very political in nature, often musing over segregation versus integration, and did odd jobs to make ends meet. This didn’t help, as she ended up living in poverty later in her life. In 1959, Hurston was admitted to a nursing home in Fort Pierce after she suffered a stroke. She died there of a heart attack on January 28, 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

10 years after her death, Alice Walker revived interest in Hurston’s work when she set out to find her grave, placed a proper headstone on it, and published an essay on the experience titled, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in Ms. magazine in 1975. In 1977, Robert Hemenway wrote the acclaimed biography on Hurston’s life called Zora Neale Hurston. Today, largely in thanks to Walker but also others, Hurston’s work is now back in print and widely celebrated. Many stories have been published posthumously, some of which were saved from a fire that was ordered after her death, and a few films and plays have been put on as well. Today, her hometown of Eatonville, Florida has held ZORA! festivals for the last 31 years.


Hurston is perhaps the face of the Harlem Renaissance alongside Langston Hughes, which is really ironic now. I never read any of Hurston’s works, perhaps because I went to predominately white schools and they would probably claim that they “wouldn’t know how to teach it properly,” as that is the common excuse for intentionally excluding black works but I digress. Like Fisher, we have another writer who had a day job in something scientific while fiction writing was sort of a side passion despite it being so instrumental in their lives. Both were also earth Suns, suggesting to me that they were drawn towards having stability in a more lucrative career than risking it all just to be a creative writer. But for Hurston, I think being an earth Sun, specifically Capricorn, motivated her to preserve black history. Especially with a Sagittarius Moon, Venus, and South Node, she had a thirst for knowledge and an adventurer spirit that allowed her to travel and collect parts of black history. With Jupiter in Aquarius, too, she was for the people, her black people of the South, even if some of those in Harlem didn’t respect and honor that. I suspect that her Mercury being retrograde largely played into this as she intentionally wrote her characters speaking in AAVE in Southern dialects. This was seen as unsophicated (Capricorn) and a racist relic of the past that was holding the black race back (Saturn).

I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.

Hurston’s works seem to center around struggle and finding ways to overcome them. This makes sense as Capricorn Suns (and Mercuries in this case) are ruled by the malefic Saturn. Their own lives were rough and may have been marked by poverty. Hurston’s Saturn is retrograde in Virgo and opposite her Pisces Mars. There may have been a lot of points in her life where it seemed as though she was being held back by the universe anytime she tried to make a move. Or, there were times where she was so held back by fear that she couldn’t always act on her desires. It is perhaps this inner conflict that pushed Hurston to explore what independence (Mars, Sun) meant through her stories and female protagonists.

Another theme in Hurston’s works is the presence of dysfunctional relationships, especially marriages, likely drawing on her father’s remarriage to his alleged mistress. With her Venus and Moon in opposition to Pluto and Neptune retrograde, this makes a bit of sense. Pluto is about diving deep into ourselves and ridding what no longer serves us. This journey can be very intense and dark. Neptune represents illusions, disillusionment, and fantasy. Taken together, Hurston seems to be exploring the true nature of some of these marriages black Southern women found themselves in. What is reality versus fiction (Neptune)? Are these marriages truly happy or are they abusive (Pluto)? How will the protagonist find happiness if not in her own marriage (Venus)? Etc.

Because Hurston has Sagittarius and Pisces placements, these stories also take on a religious tone as well (and explains why her field work tended to focus on hoodoo and folklore). Freedom and independence (Sagittarius) are often the end goals for her main characters. The idea that these women characters could be independent is often a sort of enlightened epiphany that they reach by the end of the story. They are just as strong, if not more so, than these men who continuously dominate and maim them. This is likely why so many black male writers disliked Hurston’s work, with her supposedly “writing for white people” being a coverup to wave away criticism of their own criticisms.

In either case, Hurston, like many of the writers on this list, saw veneration in death. She is a part of the Harlem Renaissance as any other writer. 

There’s two things everybody got to find out for themselves: they got to find out about love, and they got to find out about living. Now, love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing. And it’s different on every shore. And living… well… There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Notable Works

Anthropological Research

“Hoodoo in America” (1931)

Mules and Men (1935)

Tell My Horse (1938)

Short Stories

“Sweat” (1926)

“The Gilded Six-Bits” (1933)

Novels

Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934)

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)

Seraph on the Suwanee (1948)

Autobiographical

“How It Feels to be Colored Me” (1928)

Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)

Plays

Color Struck (1925)

Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life (1930)

Full Bibliography

http://www.howard.edu/library/reference/guides/hurston/

https://www.loc.gov/collections/zora-neale-hurston-plays/about-this-collection/ (plays)

Website

https://www.zoranealehurston.com/

References

Biography.com Editors. (2014, Apr. 2). Zora Neale Hurston Biography. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/writer/zora-neale-hurston

Dowe Carpenter, Cheryl. (n.d.). Zora Neale Hurston. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1512

Kalos-Khan, Elizabeth A. (2016, Apr. 4). “Making a Way out of No Way”: Zora Neale Hurston’s Hidden Discourse of Resistance (Master’s thesis, The School of Liberal Arts of Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana). Retrieved from https://digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/tulane%3A50348/datastream/PDF/view

Norwood, Arlisha R. (2017). Zora Neale Hurston. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/zora-hurston

Patterson, Tiffany. (2007, Jan. 29). Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/hurston-zora-neale-1891-1960/

Wright Reviews Hurston. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam358/wrightrev.html

Zora Neale Hurston. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Zora+Neale+Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zora_Neale_Hurston


4. Jessie Redmon Fauset (April 27, 1882 – April 30, 1961)

The white world is feverishly anxious to know of our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. Organization is our strongest weapon.”

PlanetsSigns
SunTaurusGeminiJupiter
MoonVirgoVirgoMoon (if born at noon or later;) and Uranus retrograde
MercuryTaurusTaurusMercury, Sun, Saturn, Neptune, Venus (domicile), Pluto, and the South Node
VenusTaurus (domicile)Libra
NeptuneTaurusLeo
Pisces

Born Jessie Redmona Fauset, she was the seventh child of Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Annie Fauset. Her mother died soon after her birth and her father moved Fauset and her siblings to Philadelphia where he married a Jewish widow with three children of her own.

They were impoverished, but valued education. Fauset’s father encouraged her to become a teacher, which likely motivated Fauset to be excel in school from an early age. (Tragically, he died early in Fauset’s life as well.) She graduated with honors from the renowned Philadelphia High School for Girls. She was the only black person in her graduating class but valedictorian. She wanted to go on to Bryn Mawr College, but they didn’t want to admit their first black student into the institution, so they gave Fauset a scholarship to attend Cornell University in New York instead. She received a BA in classical languages in 1909 and a master’s in French from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Fauset went on to teach at public, segregated schools in Baltimore and D.C. In 1919, she left teaching behind to move to New York to assume the position of literary editor of The Crisis at the request of its co-founder and editor W.E.B. DuBois as he was impressed by the articles she sent in for the magazine’s The Looking Glass column. Fauset held this position until 1926. During this time, the magazine thrived. She fostered the careers of many of the well-known writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Nella Larsen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Anne Spencer, George Schuyler, Arna Bontemps, and Langston Hughes. Fauset was the first person to publish Hughes.

The 1919 October edition of The Crisis illustrated by Frank Walts

Fauset also co-edited The Brownies’ Book, a monthly children’s magazine, which featured stories, biographies, songs, pictures, and games. Its mission was to “teach Universal Love and Brotherhood for all little folks—black and brown and yellow and white.” Speaking of teaching, teaching was something Fauset found herself returning to between 1919 to 1926, as she was given many opportunities to travel abroad and give lectures. She traveled to Paris, Gibraltar, Naples, Rome, Seville, and Morocco and wrote on her experiences in a variety of essays published in The Crisis. She also wrote and published poems, short stories, and translated French writings by black authors from Europe and Africa in the magazine as well. It wasn’t until 1924, however, that she penned her first novel.

The 1920 January edition of The Brownies’

There Is Confusion was written in response to T. S. Stribling’s Birthright, as Fauset felt that his white perspective on black life led to a story that was inaccurate to the realities black people actually faced. In There Is Confusion, Fauset follows the lives of “Joanna Marshall, an aspiring actress, and Maggie Ellersley, who, although she loves Joanna’s brother Phillip, tragically marries instead an older man for financial security. The novel is structured through a series of ‘confusing’ romance plots and subplots involving lovers’ separations and reunions, including Joanna and Maggie’s love for the same man, Peter Bye.” The reviews seemed mixed on this novel as Fauset chose to focus on the lives of middle-class black people. Some praised (most notably Alain Locke and Montgomery Gregory) her for exploring a group of people who were less represented in literature, but others did not like this emphasis on the upper classes, apparently under the assumption that white readers wouldn’t want to read something like this by black people.

There Is Confusion (1924)

Fauset wouldn’t write another novel until 1928. In 1927, she had a falling out with Du Bois and left The Crisis. She wanted to continue a career in publishing as a proofreader, but the industry was racist like it is today, so she returned to teaching and wrote on the side. Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral was released in 1928. It follows a narrative that at the time was novel: the life of a middle-class mixed black woman who passed and tried to live her life as a white woman only to find out that the grass was not indeed greener on the other side. The book received critical acclaim.

Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral (1928)

Fauset’s last two novels, The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life (1931) and Comedy: American Style (1933) were not as successful and Fauset sort of fell into obscurity during the ‘30s, some arguing in part because of the changing landscape of literature at the time. None of the sources I’m referencing said anything about any other published works, so Fauset likely quietly retired to teaching until she died of a heart attack in 1961 at age 79. She was married to an insurance broker named Hubert Harris in 1926. He died in 1958. They had no children.

The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life (1931) and Comedy: American Style (1933)

Like Hurston, it wasn’t until the efforts of more contemporary black women writers did Fauset’s become work unearthed and re-popularized. In Fauset’s case we can thank author Carolyn Wedin Sylvander who wrote a biography on Fauset titled, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Black American Writer, in 1981. Others like scholar Deborah E. McDowell also brought attention to Fauset as she argued that Fauset’s work showed an awareness to black cultural history and celebrated black identity. Additionally, like Nella Larsen, she wasn’t afraid to write about black women and their experiences, signifying that she was in many ways a black feminist to many black feminist scholars. So, today Fauset is considered to be one of the central and key figures of the Harlem Renaissance, the “Midwife of the Harlem Renaissance,” as Langston Hughes called her.


Astrologically speaking, Fauset’s chart is quite literally 99.9% Taurus, with her Moon unsurprisingly in Virgo with a retrograde Uranus. What is interesting, however, is her North Node is in Scorpio, suggesting that there is something about all this Taurus energy that is tied to a past life. But we will not get into all of that here.

With so much Taurus, it is not shocking that Fauset wrote primarily on middle class black life that focused on mixed (and passing) women. Like Larsen, who also had some Taurus placements, showcasing black excellence as it were seemed to be the goal of Fauset’s writing. Demonstrating to both black and white audiences that black people could be rich or well off, educated, and sophisticated (Venus). It is because of this vision that Fauset avoided a lot of (misogynistic) vitriol from her male contemporaries that Hurston endured. She was in line with their goals and represented “The New Negro.” Hurston was apparently “The Old Negro,” a ghost of slavery’s past that came back to haunt the people of Harlem.

We’ve all of us got to make up our minds to the sacrifice of some thing. I mean something more than just the ordinary sacrifices in life, not so much for the sake of the next generation as for the sake of some principle, for the sake of some immaterial quality like pride or intense self-respect or even a saving complacency; a spiritual tonic which the race needs perhaps just as much as the body might need iron or whatever it does need to give the proper kind of resistance. There are some things which an individual might want, but which he’d just have to give up forever for the sake of the more important whole.

Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral (1928)

I think the Taurus in Fauset’s chart can also be seen in how her characters are trying to find stability in an identity that is inherently destabilizing. They try to seek security financially and socially in whiteness (a delusion; Neptune) but the reality of segregation and white supremacy made it so that no matter how much these characters passed or gained white acceptance, internally they still felt out of place, alienated, and isolated. But by the end of these stories, the main characters more or less come to accept their mixedness, passing, and/or the racism of America and learn to live more fulfilling lives by focusing and pursuing what makes them feel whole and happy. This isn’t until, of course, they are basically broken down by the events of the narrative, perhaps signifying Fauset’s Scorpio North Node. Families are dysfunctional and the past of her characters dark and bleak. This is likely due to the fact that Fauset had Venus, Pluto, and the South Node all conjunct, the latter two of which also make an out-of-sign conjunction with Jupiter.

She thought then of black people … And she saw them as a people powerfully, almost overwhelmingly endowed with the essence of life. They had to persist, had to survive, because they did not know how to die.

Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral (1928)

I feel like since the themes of her novel are so similar to Larsen’s there isn’t much else to add, especially since I have not read on Fauset. Like with the other writers on this list, Fauset had all the markings of a writer: she had an early passion for literature and writing, moved to Harlem and became associated with the literary scene there and rose up to a prominent standing until it all sort of faded away so by the time she passed, not many people knew much about her until a fellow writer inspired by her works sought to preserve her legacy. Her life, at least according the sources I looked into, was rather serene and extraordinary, yes, as we look back in time and see the full extent of her reach. She didn’t necessarily have a rollercoaster of a career or life like some of the other people on this list. This isn’t surprising for a Taurus Sun with an intense Taurus stellium, I suppose.

I like Paris because I find something here, something of integrity, which I seem to have strangely lost in my own country. It is simplest of all to say that I like to live among people and surroundings where I am not always conscious of ‘thou shall not.’ I am colored and wish to be known as colored, but sometimes I have felt that my growth as a writer has been hampered in my own country. And so – but only temporarily – I have fled from it.

Selected Bibliography

Novels

There Is Confusion (1924)

Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral (1928)

The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life (1931)

Comedy, American Style (1933)

Poems

“Rondeau” (1912)

“Oriflamme” (1920)

“Dead Fires” (1922)

“La Vie C’est La Vie” (1922)

“’Courage!’ He Said” (1929)

Short Stories

“Emmy” (1912)

“My House and a Glimpse of My Life Therein” (1914)

“Double Trouble” (1923)

Essays

“Impressions of the Second Pan-African Congress” (1921)

“What Europe Thought of the Pan-African Congress” (1921)

“The Gift of Laughter” (1925)

“Dark Algiers the White” (1925)

References

Baskin, Andrew. (2007, Jul. 17). Jessie R. Fauset (1882 – 1961). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/fauset-jessie-r-1882-1961-2/

Biography.com Editors. (2014, Apr. 2). Jessie Fauset Biography. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/writer/jessie-fauset

Jerkins, Morgan. (2017, Feb. 18). The Forgotten Work of Jessie Redmon Fauset. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-forgotten-work-of-jessie-redmon-fauset

Jessie Redmon Fauset. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biblio.com/jessie-redmon-fauset/author/82996

Jessie Redmon Fauset. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://poets.org/poet/jessie-redmon-fauset

Jessie Redmon Fauset. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessie_Redmon_Fauset

Wainwright, Mary “Fauset, Jessie 1882–1961.” Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/fauset-jessie-1882-1961


5. Nella Larsen (April 13, 1891 – March 30, 1964)

She was caught between two allegiances, different, yet the same. Herself. Her race. Race! The thing that bound and suffocated her. Whatever steps she took, or if she took none at all, something would be crushed. A person or the race. Clare, herself, or the race.

Passing (1929)
PlanetsSigns
SunAries (exalted)GeminiNeptune, the North Node, Pluto, and the Moon
MoonGemini (if born at noon or earlier)VirgoSaturn retrograde
MercuryTaurusTaurusMercury and Mars (detriment)
VenusPisces (exalted)LibraUranus retrograde
NeptuneGeminiLeo
PiscesVenus (exalted) and Jupiter (domicile)

Born Nellie Walker, she was the daughter of a black West Indies father named Peter Walker and white Danish mother named Mary Hanson. Unfortunately, Peter left soon after Larsen was born and her mother remarried a fellow white Dane also named Peter, last name Larsen. They had a daughter named Anna. However, scholars speculate if this white Peter even existed because apparently there are no official marriage records or documents of Larsen taking his surname, making historians believe that these two Peter’s were the same man—that is, her biological black West Indies father tried to reinvent himself as white. To be honest, I wonder which historians thought this up because Nella Larsen still grew up in a very white neighborhood of Chicago with a white mother and a fully white half-sister, no one was going to be fooled by a black man pretending to be white unless he passed as such. (Some sources spectate that he was mixed.) But I digress. Larsen growing up in a predominately white environment shaped her and her works, especially if it is true that her new white stepfather was ashamed of her being half-black.

This underlying racial tension within Larsen’s own family could have been what motivated her to suddenly move to Nashville at just 16 to attend an all-black high school at Fisk University’s Normal School. During the early 1900s, the Great Migration hadn’t really hit Chicago, so this was the first time Larsen was completely surrounded by people who looked more like herself.

But, according to biographer George B. Hutchinson, Larsen was expelled for some violation of Fisk’s strict conduct codes for women. Larsen then went to Denmark to stay with relatives for the next three to four years. Scholars again argue that her claims of studying at the University of Copenhagen yield no records. But in either case, after this incursion she returned to not Chicago, but New York and enrolled in the Lincoln Hospital and Nursing Home in 1914. Author Darryl Pinckney notes how back in the States, Larsen found herself in between the color line once more, as the hospital had largely white patients and male doctors while the nursing home side housed black patients and were staffed by black nurses. He writes, “No matter what situation Larsen found herself in, racial irony of one kind or another invariably wrapped itself around her.”

After graduating a year later, Larsen was on the move again, this time to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to work as a head nurse. One year later she returned to New York to work as a nurse at Lincoln Hospital. In 1919, still working as a nurse, she met and married Elmer Samuel Imes, a prominent physicist who was the second black person to earn a PhD in physics and was one of the first black scientists to make major contributions to the field.

Elmer Samuel Imes

During this time Larsen had moved away from nursing after the Spanish flu pandemic hit the city between 1918 – 1919, and worked nights and weekends as a volunteer with librarian Ernestine Rose to help prepare for the first exhibit of “Negro art” at the New York Public Library (NYPL). Larsen later enrolled in the library’s teaching program, eventually becoming its first black female graduate in 1923. In 1925, Larsen took some time off work for health reasons and began to write.

Due to her husband’s status, the two frequented Harlem (and the white intellectual circles in Greenwich Village) where Larsen became acquainted with many novelists, poets, and intellectuals, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Walter White. In 1920, she published several articles in The Brownies’ Book, (which was founded by W. E. B. Du Bois, Augustus Granville Dill, and Jessie Redmon Fauset) under the pseudonym Allen Semi (Nella Imes in reverse). After publishing a short story titled “Correspondence” in 1926 in the National Urban League’s literary publication Opportunity, Larsen quit her librarian job to become a full-time writer.

In 1928, Larsen published her first novel, Quicksand, with the help of friend Carl Van Vechten, a white writer and photographer. The novel was largely autobiographical, following the tale of a mixed black woman named Helga Crane and her life in Chicago, the South, and Denmark. It was met with critical acclaim. Larsen won the Harmon Foundation Bronze Medal for Literature.

One year later she published Passing which was also very successful. It followed two mixed race women where one identified as black but would sometimes pass for white when she felt like it and her friend who identified and lived as white and was married to a racist white man who didn’t know she was mixed. Over the course of the story, their friendship turns somewhat sensual and obsessive but ends tragically. Larsen won the Guggenheim Fellowship for literature for this novel, becoming the first black woman to receive it. Soon after she traveled to Paris and Spain over the next six months to work on a third novel.

Passing (1929)

However, this book never came to be as Larsen was slammed with plagiarism charges for her short story “Sanctuary” by British writer Sheila Kaye-Smith a little bit before or after Larsen received this reward. Although even Kaye-Smith’s publishers came to Larsen’s defense and the charges were eventually dropped, Larsen never published again. It was likely due to this accusation and Larsen divorcing her husband in 1933 after discovering his long-time affair with a white woman that made Larsen retreat from the public eye all together.

Larsen kept writing but never released anything she produced after Passing. Eventually, she quietly returned to nursing after the alimony ran out when her ex-husband died in 1941. Larsen herself died on March 30, 1964 in her apartment in New York alone, presumably from a heart attack, at age 72. She was discovered quickly but someone had clearly stolen most of her belongings, only leaving behind two unfinished novel manuscripts.


Nella Larsen was the token black author I had to read on twice for two separate English courses in college, one classifying her as a Harlem Renaissance writer and the other as a rare black avant-garde writer. I personally found her stories to lean on the whole “tragic mulatto” narrative too much, which was slightly annoying. But I think after college I’ve come to better understand where she was writing from and why. So, I see her work as a part of black history like any other novelist.

Anyway, I was not surprised that she was a fellow Aries when I drew up her chart lmao! It just made sense. In her novel Quicksand, there was a clear frustration and irritation in the semi-autobiographical character Helga Crane that just feels like classic Aries energy. There is also a strong sense of independence and defiance along with feelings of alienation and restlessness that drives both of these things that is very Aries-like to me as well. Larsen, like her characters, had to fight tooth and nail to be themselves unapologetically but along the way they seem to always be met with tragedy and miserable circumstances that are in large part of their own making in some way.

She could neither conform nor be happy in her unconformity. This she saw clearly now, and with cold anger at all the past futile effort. What a waste!

Quicksand (1928)

With Mercury and Mars in Taurus, her main characters often have to deal with their stifled sexuality. In Quicksand, Helga searches for a husband but has issues surrounding (sexual) intimacy. In Passing, there is some underlying sexual tension between Irene and her childhood friend Clare. People with Mars and/or Venus in earth signs can be very sensual but there is a subset of people with these placements that feel very constrained and restricted in these areas. Larsen’s characters seemed to embody this latter manifestation than the former.

Perhaps it is because of these characters’ refined, if not regal, air about them that some may call “uppity.” They are often mixed and passing (like Larsen), therefore considered beautiful (Venus). They also had comfortable lives where they could afford luxuries and associate with people of high status (Venus). But because of these things, their behavior had to be monitored and restricted. They couldn’t give away that they are not white because if they are exposed as black, then they cannot prove to white people, and sometimes even other black people, that they are like those black people. You know, the ones from the dirty, backward South, the mammies and Uncle Toms.

However, all of Larsen’s protagonists, especially Helga, seem to be in search of something that is more than just tangible and material, which seems to reflect Larsen’s Pisces Venus and Jupiter. Her characters are in-between worlds being mixed and passing. They can flow easily between both black and white spaces, but there is often a lot of underlying contempt from both sides which causes plenty of inner turmoil over where they should “truly” belong. Perhaps this is Larsen’s Virgo Saturn opposing these planets at work. Saturn does “reject and exclude,” after all. Although her characters are generally lucky in life because of their white passing privilege, they still have to contend with the reality of racism restricting their day-to-day lives at every turn, which often leads them into a depression, something Saturn also rules.

Somewhere, within her, in a deep recess, crouched discontent. She began to lose confidence in the fullness of her life, the glow began to fade from her conception of it. As the days multiplied, her need of something, something vaguely familiar, but which she could not put a name to and hold for definite examination, became almost intolerable. She went through moments of overwhelming anguish. She felt shut in, trapped.

Quicksand (1928)

Faith was really quite easy. One had only to yield. To ask no questions. The more weary, the more weak, she became, the easier it was. Her religion was to her a kind of protective coloring, shielding her from the cruel light of an unbearable reality.

Quicksand (1928)

So, all in all, with Larsen’s chart it’s not surprising that she wrote stories, despite how brief that period was. I wonder if Saturn played a major role in her life as it seemed to be plagued by setbacks and limitations that appeared to be out of her control.

And she was interesting, an odd confusion of wit and intense earnestness; a vivid and remarkable person.

Quicksand (1928)

Bibliography

Novels

Quicksand (1928)

Passing (1929)

Short Stories

“Playtime: Three Scandinavian Games” (1920)

“Playtime: Danish Fun” (1920)

“Freedom” (1926)

“The Wrong Man” (1926)

“Correspondence” (1926)

“Review of Black Spade” (1929)

“Sanctuary” (1930)

“The Author’s Explanation” (1930)

References

BHS. (2011, Sept. 16). Nella Larsen. Retrieved from http://blackhistorynow.com/nella-larsen/

Nella Larsen. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://brbl-archive.library.yale.edu/exhibitions/cvvpw/gallery/larsen.html

Nella Larsen. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nella_Larsen#Bibliography

Richardson Johnson, Doris. (2017, Jan. 19). Nella Larsen (1891-1963). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/larsen-nella-1891-1963/

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, Apr. 9). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nella-Larsen

Wertheim, Bonnie. (2018). Nella Larsen. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/overlooked-nella-larsen.html


6. Wallace Thurman (August 16, 1902 – December 21, 1934)

Being a Negro writer these days is a racket and I’m going to make the most of it while it lasts. About twice a year I sell a story. It is acclaimed. I am a genius in the making. Thank God for this Negro literary renaissance. Long may it flourish.

Infants of the Spring (1932)
PlanetsSigns
SunLeo (domicile)GeminiPluto
MoonCapricorn (detriment)Virgo
MercuryLeoTaurus
VenusCancerLibraThe North Node
NeptuneCancerLeoSun (domicile) and Mercury
Pisces

Wallace Henry Thurman was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to Beulah and Oscar Thurman. Unfortunately, when Thurman was only 3 months old, his father abandoned him and his mother. His mother went through multiple marriages and Thurman was effectively raised by his maternal grandmother, Emma Jackson. The family lived in Boise, Idaho, Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska before returning to Salt Lake City when Thurman was 12. This period was plagued by illnesses that disrupted his education, but despite that, he was dedicated to his studies. Like the other authors on this list, he was an avid reader, enjoying the works of Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Havelock Ellis, Flaubert, Charles Baudelaire and many others like Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Baudelaire, Charles Saint-Beuve, Herbert Spencer, and Sigmund Freud. Thurman wrote as well, writing his first novel at the age of 10.

Nevertheless, Thurman entered the University of Utah as a pre-med student in 1919. He transferred to the University of Southern California to study journalism in 1922. Although he did not get a degree there, he met Arna Bontemps at a post office job. They wouldn’t meet up again until Thurman moved to Harlem, but in the meantime, he wrote for the Los Angles Sentinel and then for a column in Inklings, both black-owned newspapers. He later made his own magazine called Outlet in the hopes that it would spark a parallel literary movement that was going on in Harlem but on the West coast. But, alas, the magazine only lasted 6 months, and in 1925 Thurman made his way to New York, in part because Bontemps was moving there as well.

Thurman took a job as a reporter and editor for The Looking Glass column in The Crisis magazine, the same column that Fauset submitted her work to before also being hired as an editor. In 1926, Thurman also became an editor of the Messenger, a black socialist paper. In these years he published short works by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. During the summer of 1926, Hughes asked Thurman to be an editor for FIRE!!, a black literary magazine that was co-founded and edited by Hughes, Bruce Nugent, Hurston, Gwendolyn Bennett, Aaron Douglas, John P. Davis, Lewis Grandison Alexander, and Countee Cullen. However, the magazine folded after its first issues as it struggled to get readers both from black and white audiences, as it was too “edgy” and “raw,” and thus faced financial and distributional problems. In October 1926, Thurman become the editor of World Tomorrow, a white-owned periodical. Thurman also worked as a ghost writer for the magazine True Story.

The 1925 August cover of The Messenger and FIRE!! illustrated by Aaron Douglas (1926)

Despite being employed and published in numerous periodicals, including prestigious ones like The New Republic, it took almost four years to pay for the printing expenses for FIRE!! Because of this, Thurman’s financial situation was often dire, and at one point was he unemployed. To make matter worse, his health was deteriorating. He suffered from a swollen thyroid and other infected glands that eventually required surgery. And yet he was reported to be a heavy drinker, perhaps due to his grandmother running a saloon out of her house illegally in his youth.

Regardless, his drinking and partying habits made him very popular in Harlem, and like with other prominent figures, his apartment was a hangout spot for other creatives. What is interesting about Thurman is that although he hung out with “all the right people,” he seemed to hold them in contempt, believing that they weren’t all that important. Ironically (or not), they did not see what was so special about him either allegedly. And this latter part is unfortunately reflected today as he is one of the least read and studied Harlem Renaissance writer.

Nevertheless, Thurman still tried his hand in black literary magazines. In 1928, he launched the publication, Harlem, A Forum of Negro Life. But like other magazines, it folded after only two issues. Thurman then worked as an editor for McFadden Publications and the Macaulay Publishing Company, becoming the first black editor at Macaulay.

On August 22, 1928, Thurman married Louise Thompson, a teacher and writer. This is where things get…complicated. They were only married for 6 months. Thompson claimed that he was gay, and indeed, Thurman was arrested and spent 48 hours in jail after being caught in a sexual act with a man in a bathroom. A minister who was also closeted bailed him out but demanded money in order to not have this incident spread far and wide in Harlem. Thurman refused and soon he was outed. Thurman himself acknowledged that the event occurred but denounced being gay. This, however, did not stop his wife from seeking a divorce, using the incident as a motivating factor. Oddly enough though, they couldn’t agree on alimony so the two remained married but separated.

A year later in 1929, Thurman wrote his first play, Harlem: A Melodrama of Negro Life in Harlem, which was co-written with the white playwright William Jourdan Rapp who would become a long-time friend. The production ran for 93 performances and became “the first successful play written entirely or in part by a Negro to appear on Broadway” despite having mixed reviews initially. It premiered on Broadway on February 20, 1929, at the Apollo Theater.

Harlem: A Melodrama of Negro Life in Harlem (1929)

That same year Thurman published what many consider to be his magnum opus, The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life. Unlike a lot of other Harlem Renaissance books that seem to focus on colorism only from the perspective of lighter, mixed raced women, Thurman chose to focus on a dark-skinned black woman that seemed to be a self-insert of himself. Born in Boise, Idaho, Emma Lou Morgan is literally the black sheep of her light skinned, white passing family. She tries to escape from them by moving to Southern California, but she still faces discrimination for being “too dark” as sororities and clubs didn’t reach out to her and black men refused to date her. She moves to Harlem and still couldn’t catch a break. But over the course of the story, Emma eventually learns to love the skin she is in. Some sources say that this novel was met with negative reviews while others say they were positive, praising its authenticity and tragedy.

The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929)

In either case, Thurman returned to playwriting. In 1930, he wrote Jeremiah, the Magnificent, a three-act drama influenced by Marcus Garvey’s “back to Africa” movement. Like his other plays, it was unpublished for a very long time and was only performed once and only after his death. Thurman wrote two more plays, Singing the Blues in 1931 and Savage Rhythm in 1932. Neither were performed nor published during Thurman’s lifetime.

In 1932, Thurman wrote his second novel, Infants of the Spring. It was a satirical piece set in Harlem, involving a young black writer named Raymond Taylor who lives in a boardinghouse with what he considers to be pretentious aspiring writers who were satirized versions of Hurston, Locke, Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent, and many others. His last novel, The Interne, was also published in 1932 and was co-authored with A.L. Furman, a white author. Like Hurston’s last book, this novel stands out as it focuses on a white doctor named Carl Armstrong who become disillusioned with his craft as he works at an urban hospital.

Infants of the Spring (1932)

In his final years, Thurman moved back to California to write screenplays for a film company headed by Bryan Foy, the son of famed vaudevillian Eddie Foy. These screenplays were Tomorrow’s Children (1934) and High School Girl (1935). Because of the topics covered in these movies, they were not released to the public through traditional means and were banned in many cities.

Tomorrow’s Children (1934) and High School Girl (1935)

This was the last hurrah of Thurman’s career as he was diagnosed with tuberculosis at just 32, forcing him to move back to New York. Despite this devastating news, Thurman still drank and partied until he collapsed during a reunion party. After being hospitalized, he lived for 6 more months in a ward for incurable tuberculosis patients until passing on December 21, 1934.  His funeral services were held in New York City on Christmas Eve. In attendance were, of course, many of his Harlem friends but also curiously his estranged wife. He was buried in Silver Mount Cemetery on Staten Island.


Despite not rising to the fame of his contemporaries, Thurman is still remembered as an important figure in the movement. With his Leo Sun and Mercury though, I do find it a bit ironic that his literary work did not rise up to notoriety levels when was alive. Instead, it seems, to me at least, that his propensity for alcohol, partying, and unfortunately being outed eclipsed his work.

I guess this isn’t surprising as a Leo Sun can make one have a rather loud and vibrant personality. Combined with a Leo Mercury, he had a lot to say too as was evident through his editor profession across numerous magazine and periodicals. You could say through creating works of fiction, Thurman discovered who he was.

This is not unusual for writers but since Thurman had not only Leo placements, but Cancer ones as well, I believe that writing perhaps had a cathartic effect on him. What he wrote was deeply personal and therefore revealed integral parts of him. In The Darker the Berry, it is clear that Emma is based on himself and his childhood. I didn’t look too deep into the makeup of his family, but it could have been possible that he was the only dark skinned person in his family, something he inherited from his absent father like Emma, with his mom and grandmother being light skinned. What I find interesting, however, is that Thurman didn’t write this story from a man’s perspective. Colorism does more heavily intersect with sexism, as women are judged far more harshly and consistently for their appearance while men are given more leeway, even with race and color are considered. But I wonder if him making Emma a woman was possibly due to his Cancer placements. Cancer is a “feminine” sign and nocturnal as well. Thurman has not only his Venus, but Mars and Neptune there, so perhaps he was more in tuned to the issues women faced. Or maybe he was exploring his feminine side. Or maybe he thought that the exploration of colorism was better represented through a woman’s eyes. Or maybe he just wanted to write about a black woman lol. In either case, the choice to write a semi-autobiographical novel based around a different gender is a bit “odd” if you want to overthink it.

What isn’t odd though is Thurman’s satirical piece on the Harlem Renaissance and its leading figures. I attribute this to both his Leo (and Capricorn) placements. Leo, unfortunately, can be a bit egotistical. Because so much energy is focused on the self and garnering attention and praise from others, some people with planets in this sign and other fire signs can fall into the trap of thinking they are above others. That what they’re doing is more important and original than what other people are doing. It’s hard for Leo (and the other fire signs) to truly appreciate others for what they can bring to the table because they are often only concerned about what they are doing and where they are heading, which is usually the top.

Some of this behavior is due to naiveté, some of this is ego, but a lot of this is also insecurity. If you are so amazing, why is your own validation not enough? I’m not entirely sure if this is the place Thurman was writing from as I am not doing a deep dive into each individual author. (This list has already taken forever for me to write lmao!) But with a Capricorn Moon conjunct a retrograde domicile Saturn, this suggests to me that insecurity could have been underneath all of this. He also could have been just super cynical. People with Capricorn placements often had to struggle in life to get where they are. They couldn’t always rely on “luck.” They had to put the hard work in to get what they wanted, and they may often believe no one patted them on the back along the way. Perhaps this is why he viewed his contemporaries as mediocre, because he had to fight tooth and nail to even be in Harlem.

I cannot bear to associate with the ordinary run of people. I have to surround myself with individuals who for the most part are more than a trifle insane.

Infants of the Spring (1932)

Looking at the other biographies of the people on this list, this is a very condescending assertion if Thurman did hold this opinion. With his North Node in Libra, it could be that Thurman’s spiritual path in this life was to form closer, one-on-one relationships with people. To not view people with disdain or contempt, but to open his heart up and allow himself to be vulnerable. Considering how Thurman was friends with many prominent people of the movement, it is possible that he was learning this lesson, especially since a lot of his work was collaborative or done in group settings. And because of that I am just misreading the situation and sources I’ve referenced. But in either case, some scholars consider Thurman dying within days of Fisher as the symbolic end of the Harlem Renaissance.

We are mere journeymen, planting seeds for someone else to harvest.

Infants of the Spring (1932)

Selected Bibliography

Novels

Blacker the Berry (1929)

Infants of the Spring (1932)

The Interne (1932)

Plays

Harlem: A Melodrama of Negro Life in Harlem, co-written with William Jourdan Rapp (1928)

Jeremiah the Magnificent, co-written with William Jourdan (1930)

Savage Rhythm (1932)

Singing the Blues (1932)

Motion Pictures

Tomorrow’s Children, Bryan Foy Productions (screenplay) (1934)

High School Girl, Bryan Foy Productions (screenplay) (1935)

References

Cohassey, John Thurman, Wallace 1902–1934. Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/thurman-wallace-1902-1934

Gates, Henry Louis & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (Eds.). (2004). African American Lives. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books

Hobbs, Allyson. (2018, Apr. 26). “Heaven Compared to the Rest of the Country: Wallace Thurman in Harlem.” The Nation. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/heaven-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-country/

Samuels, Wilfred D. (2007, Jul. 21). Wallace Thurman (1902-1934). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/thurman-wallace-1902-1934/

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Wallace Henry Thurman. (2019, Dec. 18). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Wallace-Henry-Thurman

Thurman, Wallace Henry. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/thurman-wallace-henry

Wallace Thurman. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Wallace+Thurman

Wallace Thurman. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace_Thurman


7. Richard Bruce Nugent (July 2, 1906 – May 27, 1987)

Silhouette

On the face of the moon

Am I.

A dark shadow in the light.

“Shadow” (1926)
PlanetsSigns
SunCancerGeminiPluto and Jupiter (detriment)
MoonScorpio (fall)Virgo
MercuryLeoTaurus
VenusLeoLibra
NeptuneCancerLeoMercury and Venus
PiscesSaturn

Born to Richard H. Nugent, Jr., a Pullman porter and later an elevator operator at the Capitol building in Washington, and Pauline Minerva Bruce, an accomplished pianist and schoolteacher, Richard Bruce Nugent grew up prominently in Washington, D.C. Because his family was well off, Nugent was surrounded by art, often going to plays performed by the Lafayette Players, and even had artists visit his home. His father was a member of the Clef Club and an avid reader. By the age of 5, Nugent had already learned how to read. He attended Dunbar High School where one of his teachers was writer Angelina Weld Grimké, another prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance (or a little before then according to some scholars) who is most known for her anti-lynching plays.

After his father’s death, Nugent’s mother moved him and his sibling to New York and passed for white in order to keep them afloat when Nugent was just 13. She worked as a domestic and waitress oddly enough though despite her having a background in music.

Being in New York, Nugent obviously became aware of what was going on in Harlem. It is perhaps because of Harlem’s creative influence that he told his mother one day that he wanted to be a writer. At learning this, however, his mother swiftly sent him back to Washington to live with his grandmother.

To support himself, Nugent worked numerous jobs until he was 18. He too passed as white to earn more money but strangely took the more Spanish sounding name Ricardo Nugen di Dosocta. He went even farther with this by having an address located in the Spanish legation in Washington.

Nevertheless, Nugent was still determined to make a name for himself in the arts. As a result, he frequented the salon of famous writer Georgia Douglas Johnson in Washington. It was there that he met a young Langston Hughes in 1925. They became the best of friends, influencing and encouraging each other’s works. This friendship also led Nugent back to Harlem.

There, Nugent began publishing poems and short stories. Nugent’s first short story was “Sadhji” and was published in Alain Locke’s The New Negro in 1925. (Locke and Nugent knew each other through family connections or from Johnson’s salon.) The story came about when Locke asked Nugent to produce something for the aforementioned anthology and Nugent created an image of an African girl standing in a hut. Locke asked why Nugent decided to draw this and after hearing his explanation, Locke said he should turn it into a story. As a result, Nugent took pen to paper and wrote “Sadhji.”

During this time Nugent also published his first poem, “Shadows.” This piece was allegedly rescued from the trash by Hughes and was published in Opportunity. In 1927, it was reprinted in Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk. In that same year, Nugent and Locke collaborated to create a one-act play based off of Nugent’s short story titled, Sadhji: An African Ballet. It first appeared in Locke’s Plays of Negro Life: A Source Book of Native American Drama in 1927 and was produced in 1932.

A performance of Sadhji: An African Ballet

From 1926 to 1928, Nugent lived with Wallace Thurman who was covered above. This relationship led to Nugent to be a part of Thurman’s magazine FIRE!! There, Nugent published his second short story, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade” (1926). It was written in a modernist stream-of-consciousness style where he took particular pains to emulate natural speech and thought patterns through the usage of multiple ellipses. What really made the story stand out, however, was how it dealt with male (interracial) gay (one source specifies bisexual) desire. Some speculate that the man that the young artist in the story falls in love with is based off a man Nugent himself fell in love with while he was working odd jobs in his former years.

Smoke, Lilies and Jade” (1926)

Nugent himself had always loudly and proudly proclaimed his gayness. Once in an interview he said, “You see, I am a homosexual. I have never been in what they call ‘the closet.’ It has never occurred to me that it was anything to be ashamed of, and it never occurred to me that it was anybody’s business but mine.” Nugent was one of the only openly gay artist/writers in Harlem. As Hughes, Thurman, Locke, Claude McKay, and possibly Hurston were all closeted. This is interesting since Nugent married a woman in 1952 and stayed married until her death by suicide or ovarian cancer in 1969. He even stated publicly that he did not love her romantically or sexually. However, a friend of Nugent claims that his wife did love him and was determined to “change him.”

Nevertheless, as we all know by now, FIRE!! folded after one issue. Nugent followed Thurman on his next periodical endeavor, Harlem: A Forum of Negro Life, where he did illustrations and theater reviews under the pseudonym Richard Bruce. This too folded after only one issue in 1928. The two seemed to have remained friends even when Nugent was satirized in Thurman’s novel Infants of the Spring as Paul Arbian, a painter of the “bizarre and erotic.” Nugent wrote an unpublished parallel titled Gentleman Jigger that was published posthumously in 2008.

Gentleman Jigger (2008)

From this time onward, Nugent did a lot of tours as a dancer. He toured for two years in the original production of Porgy in 1929 alongside Thurman and Dorothy West in a non-speaking role. In 1933, he appeared in Run, Little Chillun. In the 1940s he became a member of the William’s Negro Ballet Company. He was also a part of other dance companies, including Hemsley Winfield and Asadata Dafora, even dancing in drag with the New Negro Art Theatre Dance Troupe.

Porgy (1929) and Run, Little Chillun (1933)

Nugent also focused on illustrations and murals. In 1928, he produced the Salome series which portrays images of female bodies, many of them named after biblical characters. Nugent’s drawings were frequently used in Opportunity by Charles S. Johnson and he included Nugent’s Drawings for Mulattoes series in his Ebony and Topaz magazines as well. In 1931, Nugent presented four of his paintings to the Harmon Foundation’s exhibition of Negro artists, one of the few venues available to black artists.

Salome Dancing (1928) and Drawings for Mulattos (1927)

In the late 1930s, Nugent made a brief return to writing. He wrote biographies of black historical figures and articles on black history for the Federal Writers Project with the likes of other Harlem Renaissance writers such as Claude McKay and Ralph Ellison. Finally, in 1937, Nugent published “Pope Pius the Only” in Challenge. He didn’t publish another short story until 1970 titled, “Beyond Where the Star Stood Still” in The Crisis.

After speaking at the Community Planning Conference at Columbia University in 1964, Nugent and other Harlem Renaissance creatives like Romare Bearden founded the Harlem Cultural Council. As the co-chair of this council, which he served up until March of 1967, the organization worked hard to preserve and celebrate the art that was within this borough. The Jazzmobile and Dancemobile, where artists performed on the flatbeds of trucks, was a notable contribution Nugent made during his time at the council.

A documentary by filmmaker Patricia DeArcy about the beginnings of the Jazzmobile and Dancemobile

Sadly, Nugent died of congestive heart failure in Hoboken, New Jersey on May 27, 1987. He and Dorothy West were one of the few artists of this era that lived into their 70s and 80s, which made them both great historical resources. The last piece of media that Nugent appeared in was an interview for the documentary, Before Stonewall (1984), which was about the LGBT community before the Stonewall Riots of 1969.


After researching into Nugent’s life, it seems clear that he was more of an artist than writer, but I wanted to include him in this specific list since he was openly gay during the time. In any case, we have our first water Sun on this list! In fact, Nugent is water dominate, perhaps explaining why his art was so elegant and full of both curves and geometric shapes. Although erotic (Scorpio Moon; Sun-Neptune-Mars conjunction), his works were never really pornographic. With his Venus in Leo, he gave his art grace and regality than explicitness or vulgarity. This extended to his writing as well, as how he describes characters is awe-inspiring and sensual. His choice of writing in a stream of consciousness is also very watery in presentation. The words flow into themselves like waves crashing onto a beach.

with her beautiful dark body… rosy black… graceful as the tongues of flame she loved to dance around… and pretty… small features… large liquid eyes… over-full sensuous lips… she knew how to dance too… better than any…

“Sahdji” (1926)

Beauty’s cheek felt cool to his arm… his hair felt soft… Alex lay smoking… such a dream… red calla lilies… red calla lilies… and… what could it all mean… did dreams have meanings…

“Smoke, Lilies and Jade” (1926)

However, what was very explicit was Nugent expressing his gayness without fear or shame. I find this interesting since he went under two different pseudonyms because he didn’t necessarily want his work to be directly traced back to him. Perhaps he either had Cancer or Leo on the 12th. With Cancer on the 12th house, all of his Cancer planets would be hidden, especially his Sun which we all know represents the self and personality. However, his Mercury, North Node, and Venus would be in the 1st house and consequently on display. So, despite having a much coyer personality than one would think, how he expresses himself in his thoughts, in how he dresses and behave (he has openly called himself flamboyant, which is often a characteristic assigned to Leo), and what he wants to do in life is very straightforward with an air of “take it or leave.” 

Some of Nugent’s work throughout his life

If Leo was on the 12th house, however, then a lot of that energy would be hidden instead. But how I interpret the hiddenness of the 12th house versus the 8th and 4th houses is that the 12th house is more obscured than intentionally hidden. Many Hellenistic astrologers said that the 12th house was the worst house in part because the Sun rises in this house, thus it washes out and burns up anything that was there to begin with. And, therefore, people with planets here are often overlooked and unseen. Of course, some 12th house people intentionally want to be invisible, but not everyone. And yet those who want to be seen have trouble getting attention and recognition regardless. So with Leo here, especially since this makes the ruler of this house the Sun, it could have been possible that although Nugent was very proud of who he was and what he thought and who he loved and what he wanted to do in this life, there could have still been some insecurity around these same issues. Subsequently, he thought some form of anonymity would help alleviate that. His contemporaries may know that it’s him (12th house ruler (Sun) in the 11th house of friendship), but the wider public wouldn’t.

The 1926 March cover of Opportunity which Nugent illustrated

And that is a bit of how Nugent’s life played out. He had notoriety within Harlem and the larger art community, but he is often still the least researched and known Harlem Renaissance artist/writer despite being friends with many of the more known figures like Fisher was. Considering that he was openly gay during his life, I’m sure how homophobia and anti-blackness intersected had a lot to do with this. Nevertheless, Nugent’s work sparked the interest of a few scholars who then went on to write anthologies on him such as Michael J. Smith’s Black Men/White Men: A Gay Anthology (1983), Joseph Beam’s In The Life: A Black Gay Anthology (1986), Thomas Wirth’s Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent (2002), and Christa Schawarz’s Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance (2003). This revival of his work helped scholars to get insight into the lives of black gay artists during the era and how they have contributed to the wealth of black art in general.

"Shadow"

Because
I am dark,
Black on the face of the moon.
A shadow am I
Growing in the light,
Not understood as is the day,
But more easily seen
Because
I am a shadow in the light.

(Full?) Bibliography

Shadow (1925)

My Love

Narcissus

Incest

Who Asks This Thing?

Bastard Song

Sahdji (1925)

Smoke, Lilies and Jade (1926)

The Now Discordant Song of Bells

Slender Length of Beauty

Tunic with a Thousand Pleats

Pooty Tang

Pope Pius the Only (1937)

On Harlem

On Georgette Harvey

On Gloria Swanson

Lunatique

Pattern for Future Dirges

Paupaulekejo (with Georgia Douglas Johnson)

Tax Fare (with Rose McClendon)

Gentleman Jigger (2007)

References

“Nugent, Richard Bruce 1906–1987.” Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/nugent-richard-bruce-1906-1987

“Nugent, Richard Bruce.” Notable Black American Men, Book II. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/african-american-focus/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/nugent-richard-bruce

Richard Bruce Nugent. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bruce_Nugent#Bibliography

Revolutionary writer, Richard B. Nugent. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aaregistry.org/story/revolutionary-writer-richard-b-nugent/

Samuels, W. (2012, October 10) Richard Bruce Nugent (1906-1987). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/nugent-richard-bruce-1906-1987/

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, Jun. 28). Richard Nugent. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Richard-Nugent


8. Dorothy West (June 2, 1907 – August 16, 1998)

There is no life that does not contribute to history.

The Living Is Easy (1948)
PlanetsSigns
SunGeminiGeminiSun, Mercury (domicile), and Pluto
MoonPiscesVirgo
MercuryGemini (domicile)TaurusVenus (domicile)
VenusTaurus (domicile)Libra
NeptuneCancerLeo
PiscesMoon and Saturn

One of 22 children of Rachel Pease Benson and Isaac Christopher West, Dorothy West was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was a former slave from Virginia who gained his freedom at the age of 7 and by 10 had saved enough money to start his own wholesale fruit company. By the time Dorothy was born they were the wealthiest black family in Boston and her father was known as the “Black Banana King” of Boston.

Because of her upper-class upbringing, West’s childhood included summers to her family’s vacation house on Martha’s Vineyard. West’s family also had very strong bonds and connections with the black social and artistic elite, having family friends such as composer Harry T. Burleigh and writer James Weldon Johnson. Dorothy West herself developed a close relationship with her cousin, Helene Johnson, who would later become a famous poet.

At just 2 years old, West received private tutoring. One of her tutors was Bessie Trotter, who was the sister of Monroe Nathan Trotter, the editor of the Boston Guardian. By 4 West was admitted to the second grade at Farragut School in Boston. She went on to attend the Martin School, located in Boston’s Mission Hill District. Later she was admitted to the exclusive, prestigious Girls’ Latin School where she was an excellent student. West had had a passion for writing since she was 7 years and published her first short story, “Promise and Fulfillment,” in the Boston Post when she was 14 in 1921. Since then, West competed in numerous writing contests. Following her graduation in 1923, she attended Boston University.

In 1926, West tied second place with Zora Neale Hurston for her short story, “The Typewriter” in a contest held by Opportunity magazine. West went to New York to receive the second-place award and fell in love with the city. She, with her cousin Johnson, moved there and West enrolled in Columbia University where she studied journalism and philosophy. Through Hurston, West met the writers and artists of Harlem that we all know by now: Hughes, Thurman, Cullen, Bontemps, Locke, and McKay. Since she was the youngest out of all of them, Hughes nicknamed her “the Kid.”

What is interesting, however, is that West didn’t write that much as she chose to go into acting to supplement her writing income in 1927. She first started out as an extra in the original stage production of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. She stayed with the cast for several years, performing on Broadway and then in London.

Porgy and Bess (1937)

In June 1932, she visited the Soviet Union along with other Harlem Renaissance creatives which included Hughes to film Black and White, a story about racism in the United States.  However, when everyone arrived the production was inexplicitly cancelled, and the group were accused of being communist sympathizers. Despite this, West decided to remain in the Soviet Union for a year. Hughes stayed with her as well and one day West asked Hughes to marry her, but he declined. West finally returned home only after the death of her father.

Back in Harlem in 1934, West resumed writing. By this time The Great Depression had hit, and West was flat out broke as her father’s lucrative business went under. However, this did not stop West from scrapping some money together to make a magazine called Challenge. The magazine’s goal was to recapture some of that magic of the Harlem’s creative high days back in the ‘20s by showcasing both older and up-and-coming black writers, such as Richard Wright. The magazine ran for four years, producing six issues, before the publication folded on April of 1937.

That same year West started up another magazine, this time teaming up with Wright, called New Challenge. But like many of the magazines covered in this list, it folded after one issue. It included an essay by Wright titled “Blueprint for Negro Writing” and a piece by Ralph Ellison who would later write the groundbreaking novel Invisible Man.

After this bust, West then worked as a welfare investigator and for the WPA Federal Writers’ Project. She still wrote on the side, publishing her short stories for the New York Daily News. However, by 1947 she moved to her parent’s cottage in Martha’s Vineyard. It was here when she began to work on her first novel.

In 1948 she published, The Living Is Easy, a story following Cleo Judson, a daughter of southern sharecroppers who is now the wife of “Black Banana King” Bart Judson, one of Boston’s black elite. It received some acclaim but was not as financially successful for West as she thought it would be. To make matters worse, the good amount of money she was going to get from its planned serialization in the Ladies’ Home Journal was cancelled last minute because the publishers argued that they would lose Southern white readers. As a result, West found a living through writing for the local newspaper, Martha’s Vineyard Gazette.  

The Living Is Easy (1948)

At some point, West returned to an old manuscript and tried to revise it into a workable novel. She almost gave up on this project until her neighbor, Jackie Onassis, encouraged her to see it through. The novel, titled The Wedding, was published in 1995 and dedicated to Onassis who unfortunately died in 1994 before it was released. Like her previous novel, it was about an upper-class black family, but this time set on Martha’s Vineyard. The book was rather popular and received good reviews which brought a lot of interest into West’s work. Therefore, in 1995, she published a collection of unpublished short stories and essays in an anthology called The Richer, The Poorer: Stories, Sketches and Reminiscences.

In 1997, in celebration of West’s 90th birthday, a party was held on Martha’s Vineyard to honor West’s life and career accomplishments. The event attracted many celebrities, including then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 1998, Oprah Winfrey adapted The Wedding into a two-part television miniseries which aired on ABC in February of that year. It starred Halle Berry, Lynn Whitfield, and Michael Warren.

The TV adapation of The Wedding (1998)

West died later that year, on August 16, in a Boston Hospital. She was 91 years old. She had never married or had children. At the time, it was noted that she was the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance as Richard Nugent passed in 1987. When asked what she wanted her legacy to be, she responded with “That I hung in there. That I didn’t say I can’t.”


Here we have another female author that didn’t write extensively but nonetheless still had a big impact on black literature, especially those created during the Harlem Renaissance. Being a Gemini Sun with a Gemini Mercury and Pluto, it really isn’t surprising that West had an early passion for writing even in spite of her shorter bibliography, especially when excluding short stories that were published across different times.

But unlike some of the women on this list, she never truly stepped away from writing all together. She just simply took a gap in between writing fiction to support herself through writing editorials. This is actually in line with what some of the male writers in this list did to keep themselves afloat and they rarely had the previous wealth West did! Nonetheless, what West wrote was in line with what other middle to upper-class black women writers were writing about: middle/upper-class (often mixed and/or passing) black women’s lives and how they navigated racism (ans sexism) in America (differently). These works were largely autobiographical in nature, but most novels are.

Identity is not inherent. It is shaped by circumstance and sensitivity and resistance to self-pity.

The Wedding (1995)

Like Larsen, she had her Venus in Taurus, so in a way it is not surprising that West wrote about wealthier black people than poorer ones. That was her life, after all, despite struggling once independent because she wanted to make writing her career. However, I do find it a bit interesting that despite struggling she didn’t really write on that even when she had Capricorn placements. Maybe her Capricorn energy manifested more externally in how she still pursued writing despite barely making money off it at first, but as she aged, it ended up bringing her the success and hopefully money she always desired.

I’m a writer. I don’t cook and I don’t clean.

Selected Bibliography

The Living Is Easy (1948)

The Wedding (1995)

The Richer, The Poorer: Stories, Sketches, and Reminiscences (1995)

The Dorothy West Martha’s Vineyard: Stories, Essays and Reminiscences by Dorothy West Writing in the Vineyard Gazette (2001)

Where the Wild Grape Grows: Selected Writings, 1930–1950 (2005)

References

Dorothy West. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Dorothy+West

Dorothy West. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.myblackhistory.net/Dorothy_West.htm

Dorothy West. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/schlesinger-library/collection/dorothy-west

Dorothy West Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-Sp-Z/West-Dorothy.html

Dorothy West. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_West

Lanum, Mackenzie. (2011, Nov. 21). Dorothy West (1907-1998). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/west-dorothy-1907-1998/

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, Aug. 12). Dorothy West. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dorothy-West


9. Richard Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960)

Whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books.

Black Boy (1945)
PlanetsSigns
SunVirgoGemini
MoonSagittariusVirgoMars, Sun, and Mercury (domicile and exalted)
MercuryVirgo (domicile and exalted)Taurus
VenusCancerLibra
NeptuneCancerLeoJupiter
Pisces

Richard Nathaniel Wright was born to free black parents, a sharecropper father named Nathan Wright and a schoolteacher mother named Ella Wright in Roxie, Mississippi. They were only born free as the result of both side’s fathers fighting in the Civil War, gaining their freedom afterwards.  In 1911, Wright’s mother moves to Natchez with Wright and his younger brother to be closer to her parents. Their father followed shortly after and found work in a sawmill. While living in his grandparents’ home, Wright accidentally set the house on fire. Wright recounts in his autobiography that his mother beat him unconscious for it. This was only the beginning of the abuse and neglect, which was probably exacerbated by Wright’s father leaving his mother for another woman after the family had moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1913.

Since his mother had to work as a cook to make ends meet, Wright grew up in poverty and had an irregular education. In 1915/6, his mother fell ill. Wright’s paternal grandmother came to take care of the boys but after she left, Wright’s mother had to place them in an orphanage for a short while until she could move the boys back to Mississippi to be with her parents. However, all three moved in with Wright’s aunt and her husband in Elaine, Arkansas. However, this stay would be cut short as Wright’s uncle “disappeared” one day, many speculating that a white man who was envious of his successful saloon murdered him. This made Wright’s mother move to West Helena, Arkansas then eventually back to Jackson, Mississippi then back West Helena to be with his aunt. This aunt ended up leaving the family to move up north to Detroit to be with a new lover.

Wright’s mother still faced complicated health issues and suffered a paralyzing stroke, which led Wright and his younger brother being separated as she recovered. Wright lived with his uncle Clark Wilson and aunt Jodie in Greenwood, Mississippi, while his younger brother went to live with the aunt that had moved to Detroit. During this time Wright had to quit school and find work to keep everyone afloat. This is tragic as at only 12 years old, he barely had a consistent year of schooling. This did not stop Wright’s passion for reading and writing in the slightest, though.

With the money he was able to scrap together he bought textbooks, pulp novels, and magazines. When he, his brother, and mother were reunited back in Mississippi in his maternal grandmother’s house, Wright was finally able to attend school regularly from 1920 to 1925. At 13 he entered the Jim Hill public school in 1921, where he was promoted to the sixth grade after only two weeks. Two years later at age 15, while in eighth grade, Wright published his first story, “The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-Acre,” in the local Black newspaper Southern Register.

Wright excelled at his studies and was crowned class valedictorian in May 1925. However, before he gave his speech, his principal pulled him aside and tried to get Wright to read the speech he wrote for him instead as there was going to be white school district officials in attendance. Wright passionately refused and delivered his own speech even when he was threatened with not being able to graduate. 

In September of that year, Wright registered for math, English, and history courses at the segregated Lanier High School. However, because of financial issues he had to quit school once more to work. By November Wright decided to move to Memphis, Tennessee on his own suddenly. There he discovered H. L. Mencken and naturalist writers such as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis by forging notes so he could take out books on one of his white co-worker’s library card. These writers awoke something within in Wright, and in November of 1917, he boarded to a train to Chicago and never looked back.

His mother, brother, and an aunt joined him and all five (some sources say Wright moved to Chicago with the aunt who initially moved to Detroit) lived in a cramped apartment in the city’s South Side. Wright worked odd jobs to support them. His job as a clerk at the Chicago post office changed the course of his life forever. Nicknamed “the University,” the post office employed numerous communists who shaped Wright’s political ideals and led him to make some literary connections via the John Reed Club.

When he was laid off from this postal job in the early 1930s due to The Great Depression, Wright began working on novel titled Cesspool in 1930, which was a story based on his experiences at the University. It was only published posthumously in 1963 as Lawd Today! In 1931, he published the short story “Superstition,” in Abbott’s monthly magazine, a black journal. Officially joining the communist party in 1933, Wright wrote to numerous leftist outlets such as Left Front, Anvil, and New Masses. In 1936, he joined the National Negro Congress and became the chairman of the South Side Writers Group. He met some familiar names we have seen before on this list like Arna Bontemps and Margaret Walker. A year later, he went to New York for the American Writers’ Congress, where he spoke on “The Isolation of the Negro Writer.” After his return, he was hired by the Federal Writers’ Project to research the history of Illinois and the lives of black people in Chicago. His short story “Big Boy Leaves Home” appears in The New Caravan anthology, where it attracts mainstream critical attention in 1936.

Despite these small gains, Wright still wanted to make writing into his career. So, in 1937, he packed his bags and went back to New York. There, he became the Harlem editor of the Communist paper, Daily Worker and was an editor of New Challenge that folded after one issue.

During this time, he was working on the manuscript of his second novel, Tarbaby’s Dawn but it was repeatedly rejected. So, he continued to write short stories on the side and Wright won first prize in the Story magazine contest for his short story, “Fire and Cloud.”

Catching some steam, Wright also won a Works Progress Administration award for his collection of four novellas published as Uncle Tom’s Children in 1938. It was met with much buzz and acclaim, but Wright’s next book truly propelled him into the literary world.

Uncle Tom’s Children (1938)

Native Son was published in 1940. It follows the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, a black youth living in Chicago’s South Side in the 1930s who accidentally kills the daughter of a wealthy white family he is working for while under the influence and attempts to hide the evidence by burning her body. Native Son was selected by the Book of the Month Club as its first book by an African-American author but critics had mixed to negative reviews of it, as they found the portrayal of Thomas to confirm white people’s racist fears of black people in general and black men specifically: that they’re violent beasts who are seconds away from attacking an innocent white person, especially a white woman. Despite many people’s discomfort with Wright’s portrayal of violence which even garnered a dismissal from the great James Baldwin in a 1948 essay, this book went on to be a bestseller and sold over 215,000 copies within three weeks of publication.

Native Son (1940)

In the following year in 1941, the Broadway production of Native Son was put on with actor Canada Lee in the role of Bigger. (Wright himself played Bigger Thomas in a motion-picture version made in Argentina in 1951.) During this same year Wright published his third book, Twelve Million Black Voices, a folk history that depicts the lives of black Americans during The Great Depression featuring stunning photography. In 1944, Wright breaks away from the Communist Party and wrote an essay for Atlantic Monthly entitled “I Tried to Be a Communist,” explaining why. The leftist publications he wrote for fired and distanced themselves from him upon this essay’s publication. But that was okay as Wright was busy writing his autobiography, Black Boy, which was published in 1945.

Black Boy (1945)

In 1947, Wright moved his family to France after briefly visiting the city at the encouragement of Gertrude Stein, an avant-garde writer. Wright did return to the U.S. at one point but the continued racism he faced his entire life and the mounting Cold War (the FBI actually had Wright under surveillance from the 1940s until his death) made him want to stay in France permanently.

There, he enjoyed the life of a celebrity as his books were being translated into numerous European languages and he was given opportunities to lecture (these were collected in the 1957 anthology titled, White Man, Listen!) and appear on radio and TV.

White Man, Listen! (1957)

In 1953, he published The Outsider, which is considered to be the first American existential novel. During this time Wright traveled throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe and even met Martin Luther King, Jr. on a trip to India. But despite living a rather exciting life, the reception of his last few pieces of work, some of which were based on his travels, were not good.

The Outsider (1953)

On November 28, 1960, Wright dies of a heart attack. He was 52 years old and was cremated along with a copy of Black Boy. His ashes remain at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.


Like Hurston, we have another somewhat controversial Southern black writer who went on to leave behind a very interesting legacy. But unlike Hurston he was a Virgo Sun, not a Capricorn one. What is interesting, however, is that the two sort of share a career that dealt with a rather raw and unfiltered look into black Southern life that was somewhat off putting to not only white audiences, but their Northern born/Northern assimilated black contemporaries. The realities of racism and the pain of slavery that echoed in the wind was not dressed up or covered up by trying to write stories about middle class often mixed and passing black people to show to white people that they too could be sophisticated and educated. No, Hurston and Wright wrote about what happened to those who lived in the South and those who made it out alive. It’s very hard to make some of the things they have lived through pretty and palatable.

I was not leaving the south to forget the south, but so that some day I might understand it.

Black Boy (1945)

I wonder if this is an earth sign thing to an extent, or in these authors’ cases, a Pluto thing as Wright had his Pluto squaring his Mercury almost down to the second. People with earth Suns and Mercuries may be more inclined to write in more down-to-earth ways that reflect everyday life without much embellishment. However, with hard aspects from Pluto, all of this takes on a very intense tone. People with these aspects like Wright may be drawn towards telling stories that are gritty not to be “edgy,” but to show people that these darker things do occur and how they psychologically affect the people who experiences them.

For writers like Wright and Hurston, growing up in poverty, facing abuse, and experiencing intense white supremacy does greatly transform who you are (Pluto). With his North Node, Neptune, and Venus all in Cancer opposing a retrograde Uranus, the childhood Wright had was deeply traumatizing and unpredictable. Through writing, however, he seemed to have found an outlet where he could let all of that built up frustration and pain out (Mars-Sun conjunction in Virgo) and find a way to be free in a society that tried to break him down and silence him (fire retrograde Saturn, Moon, and Jupiter).  And many seemed very receptive of that. Although his books have been challenged since his death (I was actually able to read Black Boy in high school), scholars today still seem to have a respect for his craft and readily acknowledge his impact on black literature.

I knew that I lived in a country in which the aspirations of black people were limited, marked-off. Yet I felt that I had to go somewhere and do something to redeem my being alive.

Black Boy (1945)

Selected Bibliography

Fiction

Uncle Tom’s Children: Four Novellas (1938)

Uncle Tom’s Children: Five Long Stories (1938)

Bright and Morning Star (1938)

Native Son (1940)

The Outsider (1953)

Savage Holiday (1954)

The Long Dream (1958)

Eight Men (1961)

Non-fiction

How “Bigger” Was Born; the Story of Native Son  (1940)

12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (1941)

Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth (1945)

The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (1956)

Pagan Spain (1957)

White Man, Listen! (1957)

American Hunger (1977)

Stage Plays

Native Son, by Wright and Paul Green. New York, St. James Theatre, 24 June 1941.

Daddy Goodness, by Wright and Louis Sapin. New York, St. Mark’s Playhouse, 4 June 1968.

References

Biography.com Editors. (2014, Apr. 2). Richard Wright Biography. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/writer/richard-wright

Cohassey, John “Wright, Richard 1908–1960.” Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wright-richard-1908-1960

Quintana, Mariah. (2007, Jan. 21). Richard Wright (1908-1960). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/wright-richard-1908-1960/

Richard Wright Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/wright/wright_bio.html

Richard Wright. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://mwp.olemiss.edu//dir/wright_richard/

Richard Wright (author). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wright_(author)#Publications

Thefamouspeople.com Editors. (2017, Nov. 13). Richard Wright Biography. Retrieved from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/richard-wright-2666.php


10. Ann Petry (October 12, 1908 – April 28, 1997)

Black was bestlooking. … Ebony was the best wood, the hardest wood; it was black. Virginia ham was the best ham. It was black on the outside. Tuxedos and tail coats were black and they were a man’s finest, most expensive clothes. You had to use pepper to make most meats and vegetables fit to eat. The most flavorsome pepper was black. The best caviar was black. The rarest jewels were black: black opals, black pearls.

The Narrows (1953)
PlanetsSigns
SunLibra (fall)GeminiPluto and North Node
MoonTaurus (exalted)VirgoVenus (fall) and Jupiter (detriment)
MercuryScorpioTaurusMoon (exalted)
VenusVirgo (fall)LibraSun (fall)
NeptuneCancerLeo
Pisces

Born Ann Lane Petry, she was the youngest of three daughters to pharmacist Peter Clark Lane, Jr. and podiatrist Bertha James Lane in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The family were five out of the fifteen black people that lived in a small white dominated town. Some sources said this “sheltered” them from a lot of racism but then proceeded to explain a few instances of white supremacy Petry and her family faced. This same source goes on to claim that Petry’s family didn’t become middle class until she was an adult, which can be believable with a black population so small.

Despite being born into a family of pharmacists and small business owners, however, Petry had aspirations of being a writer, something that may have been piqued when an English teacher read her essay aloud and said: “I honestly believe that you could be a writer if you wanted to.”

And yet after graduating from Old Saybrook High School, Petry went on to obtain a Ph.G. in pharmacy in 1931. From 1931 to 1938 she worked in her family’s drugstore and wrote stories on the side. In 1938, she married George D. Petry and the two soon moved to Harlem.

There, Petry’s dreams of writing rapidly came into fruition. She was employed as a journalist, writing for the Amsterdam News from 1938 to 1941 and the Peoples’ Voice of Harlem from 1941 to 1944. She also enrolled in creative writing classes at Columbia University between 1944 to 1946 and joined the American Negro Theatre.

While Petry was doing all of this, she also published short stories. Her first one appeared in 1939 in Afro-American titled, “Marie of the Cabin Club.” In 1943, “On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon,” was published in The Crisis. Three years later her “Like a Winding Sheet” was named Best American short story of 1946. In this same year her debut novel hit the shelves.

The Street follows Lutie Johnson, a working-class single mother black woman who travels to Harlem to achieve the black American dream but soon discovers that Harlem is not all that it is chalked up to be. This novel became a best-seller, making Petry the first black woman to achieve this status, and it was one of the first novels by a black woman to sell more than one million copies. She won numerous literary awards, including the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship. The novel also went on to be published in several paperback editions, and translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese. Petry herself appeared on magazine covers and in a feature article in Ebony magazine.

The Street (1946)

This almost instant celebrity status and the growing Red Scare shook Petry so much, however, that she and her husband returned to her hometown the following year in 1947. She did not interact with the press unless it pertained to her writing only. In that same year she published Country Place which depicts the disillusionment and corruption among a group of white people in a small town in Connecticut.

Petry didn’t publish another novel until 1953. The Narrows follows Link Williams, a Dartmouth-educated black man who bartended in the black section of Monmouth, Connecticut who has a tragic love affair with a woman he didn’t know was white, rich, and married. Although it was often criticized for its melodramatic plot, it praised for its graceful style and its sympathetic portrayals.

The Narrows (1953)

Petry continued to publish stories and even wrote children’s books (some include Harriet Tubman, Conductor on the Underground Railroad (1955) and Tituba of Salem Village (1964)) but none of them gained the widespread acclaim or financial success of her first novel.

In 1958, Petry left Old Saybrook for the first time in a decade to work on a Hollywood movie script for That Hill Girl.  In 1971, she published a collection of short stories called Miss Muriel and Other Stories. This would be the last thing she published as Petry spent the last years of her life lecturing as a visiting professor and earning honorary degrees from several different universities. Finally, on April 28, 1997 Petry died in her hometown of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She was 88 years old.

The grave of Petry and her husband

Like the other women on this list, Petry’s bibliography is not that extensive but she did find critical acclaim that propelled her into the public. However, like Larsen, the sudden exposure to the public was too much to handle, especially since the government was surveilling black leftists and those who hung out with individuals and organizations that had communist leanings. But unlike Larsen, Petry didn’t entirely run away from her writing career and still published a few more things before her death. However, she destroyed much of her own writing, including letters and journals.

In any case, Petry was a Libra Sun with her Mars also in Libra but Mercury in Scorpio. Considering that the plot of her first novel deals with the protagonist struggling against a sexually obsessive white man while her third novel centers around how a black man was murdered after the woman he discovers he was sleeping with is white, married, and rich goes to the police with a false rape claim in order to get back at him for leaving her, these three placements are front and center in Petry’s work. This can also be seen with the tight Pluto-North Node conjunction Petry had in Gemini, which also trined her Sun.

Like the other women on this list, Petry wasn’t afraid to tackle the realities of being a black woman in America. It came with a lot of harassment and disappointment. And yet, in spite of these obstacles, they overcome. Independence, especially economically, when their boyfriends or husbands have left them (often for another woman they were cheating on them with), is a strong theme in Petry’s first novel and in the other novels by women on this list. For Petry, this isn’t surprising as she has a retrograde Aries Saturn. Restrictions in freedom is something she likely personally struggled with in her life, although her obstacles didn’t seem as intense as Wright’s who shares this same Saturn.

From the time she was born, she had been hemmed into an ever-narrowing space, until now she was very nearly walled in and the wall had been built up brick by brick by eager white hands.

The Street (1946)

What is interesting about Petry is that she focused on the common black woman in The Street, one who was working-class and a former domestic who is trying to make a life for herself in Harlem after hearing about all of the praise of the borough. Safe for Hurston, the women on this list focused solely on middle and upper-class mixed/passing black women and how they personally struggled with racism and sexism and how class and colorism sometimes helped them. But Petry here offers some class analysis from the bottom of the totem. Perhaps this is because Petry was allegedly not middle class herself. She may have enjoyed some luxuries that were barred from other black people since both of her parents were educated and small business owners (Moon in Taurus; Virgo placements), but it perhaps wasn’t enough to make her live in comfort like a middle class black woman (Venus and Jupiter were debilitated). She also grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, so despite her family’s success she was always reminded of how they had to struggle to get there (retrograde Saturn opposite Mars by degree, opposite Sun by sign; Moon trine Mars out-of-sign).

Petry’s legacy has also struggled to survive but scholars and authors like Tayari Jones have tried to revive interest in her work. The fact that I found her so easily on Google must mean someone somewhere is doing something right, at least.

All life goes in a circle, around and around, you started at one place, and then came right back to it again.

The Narrows (1953)

Bibliography

The Street (1946)

The Drugstore Cat (illus. Susanne Suba) (1949)

The Narrows (1953)

Tituba of Salem Village (1954)

Harriet Tubman: Conductor On The Underground Railroad (1955); as The Girl Called Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman (1960)

Legends of the Saints (illus. Anne Rockwell) (1970)

Miss Muriel and Other Stories (1971)

References

Ann Petry. (2014).  obo in American Literature. doi: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0145

Ann Petry. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Ann+Petry

Ann Petry. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Petry

Griffin, Farah Jasmine. (2014, Jan.-Feb.). “Ann Petry.” Harvard Magazine. Retrieved from https://harvardmagazine.com/2014/01/ann-petry

Quintana, Maria. (2009, Dec. 20). Ann Lane Petry (1908 – 1997). Retrieved from  https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/petry-ann-1908-1997/

The Editors of Encyclopadia Britannica. (2019, Oct. 8). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ann-Petry


Honorable Mentions

1. Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins

Known for using the romance novel as a vessel for exploring racial and social issues and being the first black woman to write speculative fiction.

Notable Works

Slave’s Escape: Or the Underground Railroad (1880) (play)

Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South (1900)

Of One Blood: Or, the Hidden Self (1902 – 1903)

2. Sutton E. Griggs

A prolific writer who wrote extensively but is best known for his sci-fi novel Imperium in Imperio (1899).

3. Charles Waddell Chesnutt

A lawyer and activist who is best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity in the post-Civil War South. Two of his books were adapted as silent films in 1926 and 1927 by black director and producer Oscar Micheaux. Following the Civil Rights Movement during the 20th century, there was a growing interest in his work.

Notable Works

The Conjure Woman, and Other Conjure Tales (1899)

The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color-Line (1899)

The House Behind the Cedars (1900)

4. Jean Toomer

A Harlem Renaissance writer who is only known for his first and last novel, Cane (1923).

5. Arna Bontemps

A Harlem Renaissance writer who seemed to be friends with all the other greats of this period.

Notable Works

God Sends Sunday (1931)

Black Thunder (1936)

Story of the Negro (1948)

6. Chester Himes

A 1940s writer known for his Harlem Detective series and If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945).


So, this finally concludes this article! Who did you find most interesting? Which author’s work are you personally going to look into? What are some ways I can improve on this type of article? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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