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Author Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964) began making portraits in 1932. Over the next three decades, he asked writers, musicians, athletes, politicians, and others to sit for him—many of them central figures in the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten features thirty-nine images of men and women who not only fueled the New Negro movement, but also transformed the broader American culture—including James Baldwin, Ossie Davis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ella Fitzgerald, Althea Gibson, Langston Hughes, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Bessie Smith, and others. The book includes an essay by John Jacob and biographical sketches for each sitter.
The photographs are exhibited and this companion volume is published to celebrate the grand opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.