Feb 21, 2008 - Sale 2137

Sale 2137 - Lot 228

Price Realized: $ 6,240
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,500 - $ 3,500
"LIFE AIN'T BEEN NO CRYSTAL STAIR" (LITERATURE AND POETRY.) ELLISON, RALPH, CLAUDE MCKAY, ET AL. No Crystal Stair. An Informal History of Negroes in New York. Large group of Works Progress Administration typed manuscripts for a Writers Project assignment. Over 100 pages; some fragmentary; many with corrections in pen or pencil, a few signed; some chipping to the edges of the age-toned paper. A large piece of what appears to be the top of a file folder reads "No Crystal Stair. Life Ain't Been No Crystal Stair (An Informal History of Negroes in New York." should be seen. (New York City, 1936-1938)

Additional Details

A fascinating group of typed essays on Negroes in New York compiled under the aegis of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. During the Great Depression, the WPA provided jobs for many writers and artists around the country, and in New York City it happened to involve a great deal of African-American talent. This project might have been intended to form a WPA Guide Book, or perhaps a section of one, but it apparently never got off the ground.

Papers include: Ralph Ellison's five page piece on the Anti-Slavery movement in the United States; a large piece by Abram Hill on Negro poets; Charles Siebert and Ted Poston on the Underground Railroad; Henry Lee Moon on Ben Fletcher, an IWW organizer; Claude McKay on Negro Theatre; Hugo Gellert on Negro Folk Song (the latter was expanded upon and published by The Masses); Lasalle Best on Negro Musicians in New York; Roy Ottley on The Reaction of Southern Negroes to New York City, and many, many more. As far as we could determine, nothing aside from Hugo Gellert's work on Negro Folk Songs and Negro Songs of Protest was ever published as it appears here. The WPA did have a project that involved "Interviews" of New Yorkers conducted by writers that included Ralph Ellison, but the present material does not seem to be connected.