As indicated in the infographic, Dunbar-Nelson’s favorite authors include the American mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart, Pulitzer Prize winning literary novelist Edith Wharton, and the Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist Countee Cullen. Searching through the journals’ contents, moreover, and singling out laudatory language in the reviews opened the door for productive speculation into which books Dunbar-Nelson enjoyed most. Single word comments such as “beautiful,” “magnificent,” “superlative,” and “perfect” were some of the more unambiguous indicators of personal satisfaction that were used to identify her favorite books. These works include Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928), Ludwig Lewisohn’s The Last Days of Shylock (1931), R. Hernekin Baptist’s Four Handsome Negresses (1931), Henrik Ibsen’s Emperor and Galilean (1896), Stephen Vincent Benét’s poem, John Brown’s Body (1928), John Kendrick Bangs’ A House Boat on the Styx (1895), James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Winston Churchill’s Coniston, DuBose Heyward’s Porgy (1925) and Mamba’s Daughters (1929), and T. S. Stribling’s The Store (1932).



In terms of representation, the basic distribution of author demographics in Dunbar-Nelson’s journals is likely typical of the period. Unsurprisingly, nearly three-quarters or 71% of the authors in the journals are either white or male, or both (i.e. 33% men and 38% white). Of all the titles noted in the journals, approximately 8% are women authors and 4% are authors of color. It is interesting to note, however, given the period’s propensity for assigning a controversial status to sexualities deemed counterhegemonic to heteronormativity, that close to 2% of the total listings can be classified as LGBTQ+ works in either author or subject.


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