Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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#TBT: Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance

#TBT: Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) knew, or had photographed, more famous people in the world of arts, letters, and politics than most anybody of his time. He was twice married, and through an inheritance he was well-funded with a trust that was untouched by the fall of the stock market in 1929. He was also bisexual, and fairly open about it at the time.

A New York Times music critic, a novelist, and a photographer, and he was the first American critic of modern dance. He was also close friends with Gertrude Stein and became the literary executor of her estate.

Van Vechten was a famous patron of the Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of African-American culture that spanned the 1920s, '30s, and beyond. His friendships with the major LGBT players of that creative period were many, and his collection of photographs of those figures is invaluable.

All images here from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection.

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Alvin Ailey
January 5, 1931–December 1, 1989
A dancer and founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey received the Kennedy Center Honors while living and was posthumously recognized with a Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2014. Ailey was inspired by his brutal upbringing in the South, and his signature work, Revelations, is one of the best-known and most performed dance pieces. He was cautious about being openly gay. He found success early, but by the '70s he turned to drugs, alcohol, suffered a nervous breakdown in 1980. He was secretive about his private life, including his homosexuality, and, unbeknownst to most at the time, died from AIDS-related complications at age 58. (Source: Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance by Jennifer Dunning)

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