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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005. Interview R-0346. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Interactions with the "Who's Who" of African Americans

Delany talks about the notable African Americans that stayed with his family in Raleigh, North Carolina, while he was growing up. Because Delany's father was a prominent African American physician in Raleigh, African American entertainers, activists, and politicians sometimes stayed with the family while staying throughout the segregated South. In discussing this, Delany focuses on how the "who's who" of African Americans were perceived socially, drawing connections between his experiences in Raleigh and in Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005. Interview R-0346. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KIMBERLY HILL:
Were you living in Harlem?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Um hmm. Harlem USA. There's no other place. I had the privilege of meeting and knowing just about everybody that was who's who in black America at one time or another. I had [connections] because my Uncle Hubert was a prominent attorney in New York, and most [members] of "Who's Who in Black America" either knew him or were one of his clients. When these people found it necessary to come South for one reason or another and hotel accommodations were not what they wanted to be, Hubert would call my mama and ask her, can Paul Robeson stay at your house, can Marion Anderson stay at your house, can Cab Calloway stay at your house, can Duke Ellington stay at your house? The answer was always yes. So all of those people at one time or another stayed at my house.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Wow.
LEMUEL DELANY:
So I met all the WEB Dubois, the Paul Robeson, the Marion Andersons, the Cab Calloways, the Duke Ellingtons. You name them. I met them all at one time or another.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Which one did you enjoy the most?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Cab Calloway.
KIMBERLY HILL:
When they came did they tell you about all the stuff they did?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No. No. They were just there. At that time celebrities did not need or have an entourage to follow them everywhere they went. In other words, in Joe Louis's heyday you might see him walking up and down Seventh Avenue by himself any time. You might see Duke Ellington. You might see Paul Robeson. You might see them walking up and down the street and Adam Powell and all those people. They didn't have any entourage following them around, and they were only Who's Who in white America. In other words at the Cotton Club in Harlem, Cab Calloway was many times the featured entertainer. But they didn't allow black people in the congregation, in the audience at the tables. So he was big to them.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Not so much to the black audiences.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, the only time we saw them was at the Apollo theatre. He came to Apollo Theatre you see him. But in between shows he'd be out there on 125th Street like everybody else. He wasn't all that "who's who."