Regina Anderson Andrews was a librarian, author, playwright and the executive director of the Harlem Experimental Theatre.
Andrews was born on Tuesday, May 21, 1901 in Hyde Park, Illinois to Margaret Simons Anderson and William Grant Anderson. She was a 1919 graduate of Hyde Park High School, the alma mater of famous airplane pilot, Amelia Earhart.
After graduating high school, Andrews attended Wilberforce University a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio. While at Wilberforce, Andrews worked at the university’s Carnegie Library as a library assistant. In 1921, Andrews moved to Chicago where she worked as a junior assistant at the Chicago Public Library. Two years later, Andrews moved to New York City and was hired as a clerk at the New York Public Library’s 135th St. Branch, now known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 1926, she enrolled in the Columbia University Library School. That same year, she married William T. Andrews, a graduate of Howard University and a lawyer for the NAACP.
During her years at the New York Public Library, Andrews worked with other pioneering African American librarians such as Catherine Latimer, the New York Public Library’s first African American librarian, Sadie Peterson Delaney, a pioneer in bibliotherapy, and Arthur Schomburg, a noted bibliophile and collector of works from the African diaspora. Andrews later became the first African American librarian at the Woodstock Branch of the New York Public Library. Andrews also worked at the 115th St. Branch of the New York Public Library – now known as the Harry Belafonte 115th St. Branch – and was one of a few African American librarians to hold supervisory positions during that time, becoming head of the 115th St. Branch and the Washington Heights Branch.
In her role as a playwright and author, Andrews wrote plays such as “Underground” and “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” co-founded the Harlem Experimental Theatre with Dorothy Petersen in 1929 and co-edited “Chronology of African Americans in New York, 1621-1966” with Ethel Nance. In addition, Andrews was close friends with writers Zora Neal Hurston and James Weldon Johnson; poets Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes; civil rights activist and historian W.E.B. DuBois; and A’Lelia Walker, daughter of beauty entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker.
Regina Anderson Andrews continued her work at the New York Public Library until her retirement in 1966. She died on Friday, Feb. 5, 1993 at the age of 91 in Ossining, New York.
The Indiana State Library is fortunate to have in its collection “Regina Anderson Andrews: Harlem Renaissance Librarian”, a biography on Andrews written by Dr. Ethelene Whitmire, a professor at the iSchool of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In addition to her book, Dr. Whitmire has a brief YouTube video about Andrews, “Harlem Renaissance Librarian: The Life of Regina Andrews.”
This blog post was written by Michele Fenton, monographs and federal documents catalog librarian.