Harvard University Acquires Copy of Unfinished Play by James Baldwin

The Houghton Library at Harvard University has acquired a typed script of an unfinished James Baldwin play “The Welcome Table.” The manuscript is the 3,000 item acquired by the library archives since 1874.

James-Baldwin
James Baldwin

One of the main characters in the Baldwin play, Peter Davis, is based on Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard. Another character is based on Josephine Baker. In 1973, Professor Gates, who was working as a London-based journalist at the time, drove Josephine Baker to Baldwin’s villa in France, where the three dined together.

Dr. Gates
Dr. Gates

There are four known versions of the script that were written over the years. In one version, Professor Gates is a young man but in a later version he is a middle-aged man. Professor Gates owns one of the other copies of the unfinished play. Another is held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library. The fourth is owned by a private collector.

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