The Negro Actors Guild (NAG) Photograph Collection (190?-198?) constitutes a portion of the organization's archives. The collection documents NAG membership, activities, and facilities, as well as the contributions of African-Americans to various areas of the performing arts. The collection consists of general files maintained on individual performers, stills featuring African-American performers from various motion picture and theatrical productions, and the personal collections and scrapbooks of individual performers. The collection does not depict a number of individuals associated with NAG nor does it document all of the organization's activities. Some photographs are unidentified.
Content: Collection includes works by Bert Andrews, James Kriegsmann, M. Smith and others.
Content: Some photographs bear handstamp of either photographer, photography studio, news agency, or corporate body on verso; some photographs have photographer's or photography studio's blind stamp on recto; some items have photographer's name signed or printed on verso. Some photographs have typewritten captions attached to verso or recto; others have handwritten captions on verso. Some items have printed captions on recto. Some portraits have actors' resume attached. Some photographs are inscribed or autographed. Some photographs are mounted; a group of items are mounted on scrapbook pages. Some images are cropped; other items are damaged. Some photographs are duplicates.
Biographical/historical: The Negro Actors Guild of America, Inc. (NAG) was incorporated in 1936 in New York City as a welfare and benevolent organization for mainly African-American performers. It was established with the assistance of the Theatre Authority, which encouraged black performers to form the Guild in order to become eligible for funds dispersed by the Theater Authority. Some of the services NAG provided were financial aid to indigent entertainers, visitations on black entertainers and gifts to the sick. The Guild kept statistics and maintained a biographical archive as well as publishing a quarterly journal, "The Negro Actor," from 1938-1940.
Among the founding members of NAG were Fredi Washington, W. C. Handy, Paul Robeson and Ethel Waters. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was named honorary president at its inception. Noble Sissle was the first elected president, 1937-1957; followed by Leigh Whipper, 1957-1960; Frederick O'Neal, 1960-1964; Charles "Honi" Coles, 1964-ca. 1980; and James Randolph, 1980-1981. In the mid-1970s the Guild received approximately $75,000 from photographer Carl Van Vechten's estate which almost tripled its treasury. The Guild had approximately 875 members when it collapsed in 1982 due to mishandling of funds and factional infighting.