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Introduction by Lorraine Elena Roses

hat you'll see on this Web site are condensed versions of what will make up Black Boston's Cultural Awakening, my forthcoming book that inquires into the roots of African-American culture in Boston.
You'll also find advance previews of Lisa Simmons' documentary on Negro Theater in Boston.

The impetus for my book comes from an event that occurred almost twenty years ago.

In the spring of 1985 I attended a Women's Studies lecture at Wellesley College, where I teach. The speaker was Dorothy West, the last survivor of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. West, nearly eighty years old, spoke with broad "a's" and the pride of a native Bostonian educated at the venerable Boston Latin School. Her adventures began when she and her cousin Helene Johnson got news of winning a New York literary contest - a highly unusual recognition for teenagers.

That summer I spent an afternoon visiting West at her Martha's Vineyard cottage. Later on I thrilled to the news that West had been "re-discovered" by Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (widow of President John F. Kennedy), then an editor at Doubleday.

I was hooked not only on West but on the idea of women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. With my partner in research Ruth Elizabeth Randolph, I worked for five years to publish a book about Harlem Renaissance women: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond: Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 (Harvard University Press, 1996).

Six years after that Ruth and I published a collection of writings by Harlem Renaissance women:
Harlem's Glory: Black Women Writing, 1900-1950 (Harvard University Press, 1996).

When I was working on my next project, the Boston Globe published an article on my search for the black artists and writers that had created a little renaissance in Roxbury during the 1920s and 1930s.
Right away I got a phone call from a young actress and film-maker named Lisa Simmons. "That's my family you're talking about," she said, "and I'm making a documentary." "OK then, let's work together," I told her. And that's what we're doing now.