Richard Bruce Nugent


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(1906–1987), popular writer and artist of the Harlem Renaissance era,

also known as Bruce Nugent and Richard Bruce. “Shadows,” Richard Bruce Nugent's first published poem, on the subject of race, appeared in Opportunity and was reprinted in 1927 in Countee Cullen's Caroling Dusk. “”Sahdji,” published in Alain Locke's The New Negro (1925), is a pseudo-African story characterized by the use of ellipses and contains the twin themes of homosexuality and biblical imagery that would often determine his later work. In collaboration with Locke this later became Sahdji—An African Ballet and appeared in Locke's anthology Plays of Negro Life (1927). Scored by William Grant Still, it was performed at the Eastman School of Music in 1932.

In 1926, with Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Aaron Douglas, Nugent's founded the controversial magazine Fire!! Nugent's “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” apparently the first tale of explicit homosexuality published by an African, fatures Alex, a young artist who resembles the author.

After the failure of Fire!!, Nugent coedited, with Wallace Thurman, Harlem (1928). His bold illustrations appear here as well as in Fire!!; other works are in Opportunity and the Crisis; his ambitious Drawing for Mulattoes series appears in Ebony (1927).

Though never widely published, Nugent, as a fund of information and as an aid to other writers and artists, nevertheless had an important impact on art in Harlem. As cofounder in the 1960s with Romare Bearden of the Harlem Cultural Council, Nugent expressed his continuing commitment to African American life and culture.

David Levering Lewis, WhenHarlem Was In Vogue, 1981.Richard Bruce Nugent, Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance, ed. Thomas H. Wirth, 2002.

Nathan L. Grant

Subjects: Literature.

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