Black and white photo of Langston Hughes in a suit signing an autograph surrounded by a sea of black children

Griffith J. Davis, Photographer

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes (1901–1967) held friendships with artists across generations and disciplines. He forged connections between creative professionals, encouraged the work of others, and helped build a larger network of Black creatives and intellectuals responding to, and shaping, the current events of the time. Among them were Arna Bontemps, Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy West, Regina Andrews, Margaret Danner, Louis Armstrong, Randy Weston, and Roy DeCarava. The photographs in this exhibition offer an intimate look at Langston Hughes with students, writers, visual artists, and performers in different periods of their maturation. 

One friendship began in the classroom at Atlanta University when photojournalist Griffith Davis (1923–1993) was a student and Hughes a visiting professor. After graduating from Morehouse College in 1947, Davis became the first Roving Editor of Ebony magazine at the recommendation of Hughes. In 1948, Davis attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and rented a room in Hughes’ Harlem home on East 127th Street. Davis used Hughes’ home as a base while working as an international freelance photojournalist. Hughes used Davis’s marriage to Muriel Corrin Davis in 1952 as the basis for Simple Takes a Wife of his Simple series.

Multiple professional collaborations emerged from the mentorship, as did an enduring friendship. In this exhibition, Griff Davis’s photography is complemented by archival material from the Schomburg Center’s collections and letters reflecting decades of personal correspondence. 

The exhibition The Ways of Langston Hughes and its text are adapted from the traveling exhibition Griff Davis-Langston Hughes, Letters and Photographs, 1947 – 1967: A Global Friendship, originated at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.

Listen to commentary from photographer Griff Davis’s daughter, Dorothy Davis, with the Schomburg Center’s digital guide on Bloomberg Connects, the free arts and culture app.

Exhibition Preview

Black and white photo of Langston Hughes in a suit signing an autograph surrounded by a sea of black children

Griffith J. Davis, Photographer

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Black and white photo of Langston Hughes in a striped shirt with a cigarette dangling from his lips, sitting at a desk with a typewriter surrounded by papers.

Griffith J. Davis, Photographer

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Langston Hughes at home in Harlem at his usual work table with his upright typewriter, ca. 1948
Image of two Black men standing, reading a magazine. The man on the left has a camera hanging around his neck.

Griffith J. Davis, Photographer

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Langston Hughes and Morehouse student and photographer Griffith J. Davis, Class of 1947, reading EBONY at Langston Hughes’s faculty apartment, 1947
Black and white photo of Jean Blackwell Hutson and Langston Hughes.

Unidentified Photographer

Prints and Photographs Division, Schomburg Center for Black Culture, The New York Public Library,

Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

Langston Hughes and Jean Blackwell Hutson at the Schomburg Center, ca. 1954
Black and white photo of two men seated, Langston Hughes and Dizzy Gillespie holding a trumpet

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Langston Hughes interviewing Dizzy Gillespie backstage in his dressing room.
Black and white photo of Langston Hughes seated, reading, surrounded by three students, two young men standing and a young women seated beside Hughes

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Langston Hughes seated with students at Atlanta University. ca. 1947
Black and white photo of Langston Hughes seated, working using a chair as a workstation, surrounded by papers on the floor and a man in the background also working

Griffith J. Davis

Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Large Print Labels and Listening Wall Transcript

Large Print Logo

Access the exhibition's wall labels in large print, as well as a transcript of the listening wall audio feature.

Talks at the Schomburg: Photographic Archives and Legacy Building

Black and white portraits of three program participants
Image (l-r): Marilyn Nance, Kwame S. Brathwaite, Dorothy M. Davis

Tuesday, April 2, 2024 | 6:30 PM | Schomburg Center

Marilyn Nance, photographer for the U.S. delegation of FESTAC ’77 and author of Last Day in Lagos, Kwame S. Brathwaite, son of Black Is Beautiful photographer Kwame Brathwaite and director of the Kwame Brathwaite Archive, and Dorothy M. Davis, president of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives, will join Schomburg Photographs and Prints Division Specialist La Tanya Autry for a conversation about stewarding archives made over the last five decades by culture-shifting photographers and managing personal and familial legacies. This conversation is part of public programming around the latest exhibition The Ways of Langston Hughes, featuring the work of pioneer foreign service officer and photojournalist Griffith J. Davis who made images of Langston Hughes over their multi-decade friendship and work collaborations.

WATCH

Watch Now: Exhibition Opening

Color image of three people in an exhibition space looking down into a display case of books and letters. The wall in front of them is lavender with two quads of black and white photos.
Opening Night

William Farrington/Schomburg Center

Watch the exhibition's opening public program, held on February 1, featuring Schomburg Center director Joy Bivins and a conversation between Dorothy Davis, President of Griffith J. Davis  Photographs and Archives, and Novella Ford, Associate Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions at the Schomburg Center. Watch.

Acknowledgements

Organized by Novella Ford, Associate Director of Public Programs & Exhibitions with support from Laura Mogulescu, Exhibitions Manager, and consultation from Dorothy Davis, President of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Exhibition & Graphic Design

Julian Alexander, Slang, Inc.

Installation Assistants

Mike Depasquale, Rebecca Josephson, Steven Secka, Kiera Stuart 

 

SPECIAL THANKS

Schomburg Center Director Joy Bivins

Photographs & Prints Division Dalila Scruggs

Manuscripts, Archives & Rare Books Division Barrye Brown, Victor Collymore-Bey, Kailee Faber

Moving Image & Recorded Sound Division Julian Gonzalez, Shola Lynch, Anika Paris

Jean Blackwell Hutson Research & Reference Division Maira Liriano

Art & Artifacts Division Tammi Lawson

Copyright and Information Policy Gina Murrell

Digital Imaging Services Emily Hoffman, Pete Riesett

Schomburg’s Security and Facilities Staff

Audio/Visual Services Kevin DeYoe, Park Boulevard

 

The exhibition The Ways of Langston Hughes and its text are adapted from the traveling exhibition Griff Davis-Langston Hughes, Letters and Photographs, 1947 – 1967: A Global Friendship, originated at the Florida Museum Of Photographic Arts. 

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