The Music of Margaret Bonds

The Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of a substantial collection of the papers of Margaret Bonds, an important African-American composer best known for her collaborations with Langston Hughes. The collection includes hundreds of pages of music manuscripts and manuscript fragments, letters and cards from Langston Hughes and others, photographs, programs and ephemera and is held in the Special Collections Research Center.

Bonds met Langston Hughes in 1936, and a lifelong friendship and collaboration ensued. In that year she set to music several Hughes songs including “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “Love’s Runnin’ Riot” and “Winter Moon.” They went on to collaborate on innumerable large and small projects, including “Ballad of the Brown King” and “Shakespeare in Harlem.” One of several notes from Hughes to Bonds in the collection, written from Los Angeles on March 9, 1961, reads: “Still here, can’t seem to get away. I’m doing a bit of work with Eartha Kitt on lyrics and Afro-Latin things. Dorothea Freitag flew out to rehearse her new numbers for the Plaza date. And Olga James is here, too. Dorothea saw her show and sends you the enclosed program.”

The acquisition of this fascinating collection was made possible by the Leon Robbin Library Endowment Fund.