Profile: Regina M. Anderson (1901-1993)

Regina M. Anderson was an American playwright and librarian. She was of Native American, Jewish, East Indian, Swedish, and other European ancestry (including one grandparent who was a Confederate general); one of her grandparents was of African descent, born in Madagascar. Despite her own identification of her race as “American”, she was perceived to be African-American by others. Influenced by Ida B. Wells and the lack of black history teachings in school, Regina became a key member of the Harlem Renaissance.


Regina was born in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, Illinois, to Margaret Simons Anderson and William Grant “Habeas Corpus” Anderson. Her mother was a ceramics artist, and her father was a skilled attorney. Due to the success of her father, Regina grew up in a respectable, upper-middle-class family. After her parents’ divorce, Regina was sent to live with her grandparents from her mother’s side in Normal, Illinois. After spending a few years in Normal, she journeyed back to Chicago and graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1919. She studied at the historically black college Wilberforce University and worked in its Carnegie Library. After studying there for a year, Anderson returned home to Chicago and was hired as a junior library assistant at the Chicago Public Library in 1921. A short time after, she moved to New York where she first settled in downtown Manhattan living at a YWCA. Andrews and Du Bois co-founded the Krigwa Players (later Negro Experimental Theatre), a black theater company. The Players produced her plays Climbing Jacob’s Ladder (about a lynching) and Underground (about the Underground Railroad).

Regina Andrews was one of ten African-American women whose contributions were recognized at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

She was the first minority to climb the ranks and become a supervising librarian at the New York Public Library, at the 115th Street ranch in 1938, and her struggle to break the color barrier has earned her numerous accolades.

Andrews outlived virtually all of the other members of the Harlem Renaissance. She died in Ossining, a suburb of New York City.

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