Vol. 1 No. 1 (2020): Celebrating the Lives and Times of Belle da Costa Greene

The cover art is an original composite visual image designed by graphic design artist Aaron West. It consists, primarily, of a black and white photograph of Belle da Costa Greene held by the Library of Congress with an overlay of script in Greene’s own hand.

The original scholarship, essays, short stories, poems, performances, and reviews contained in volume 1, number 1 of Quimbandas: Explorations of Identities capture the themes, arguments, subject-matters, and tones of Celebrating Belle da Costa Greene: An Examination of Medievalists of Color within the Field, a scholarly conference held on the campus of Saint Louis University at the Center for Global Citizenship 30 November–2 December 2018. Belle da Costa Greene was a prominent art historian and the first manuscript librarian of the Pierpont Morgan collection. She was also the first known person of color, and second woman, to be elected a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America (1939). According to the Morgan Library and Museum website, “Morgan…hired Greene, a librarian from Princeton University, to manage and augment his collections...Although she would work with Morgan for only seven years before his death in 1913, Greene transformed Morgan’s collection and quickly became a leading figure in the rare book world. For example, in 1908—during her first trip to Europe—she famously orchestrated a secret pre-sale deal to secure a group of coveted volumes printed by William Caxton.” Her legacy highlights the professional difficulties faced by Medievalists of Color, the personal sacrifices they make in order to belong to the field, and their extraordinary contributions to Medieval Studies. For, although Greene was the daughter of Richard T. Greener, in order to gain entrance and acceptance into the racially fraught professional landscape of early twentieth-century New York: she had to pass as white. 

Published: 2021-05-09