Notes from the Catalogue: Dr. Amalia Amaki on Dr. Richard A. Long

Dr. Amalia Amaki, noted art historian and artist, wrote the catalogue introduction for The Richard A. Long Collection of African-American Art. Dr. Amaki, a native Atlantan, received her Ph.D in 1994 at Emory University in 20th-century American History and Culture, at the same time that Long was at Emory serving as the Haygood Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts. They went on to become friends and Long even became a patron of her art. The introduction from the catalogue follows:

Richard A. Long | Photo by Susan J. Ross | © Susan J. Ross

Richard A. Long (1927-2013), renowned scholar of language and the arts, was a central figure in African American cultural life for nearly fifty years, being particularly important to Atlanta, Georgia’s art communities. As a professor, raconteur, author, and collector, he shared a breadth of knowledge about African Diaspora expression in lectures, literature, tours, conversations, and informal gatherings at his home. While the Atticus Haygood Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University, he directed over thirty dissertations, sat on additional committees, and often convened graduate seminars in his living room, with a general walk-through of his art collection on the main floor of his residence as the opener to the first class meeting.  He hosted Romare Bearden, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and other notables, and conducted impromptu talks with small groups of artists or associates about his visits with Alma Thomas, Lois Jones, James Porter, James Wells, Hale Woodruff, Barbara Chase Riboud, and his close friend Beauford Delaney among others.  He remained committed to artists with local and regional ties, often attending events with South Carolinian Jonathan Green to be supportive, and providing updates on the events in the life of Robert Tomlinson, a former Emory University colleague who relocated to Paris. He consistently organized trips to France and Haiti to advance and sustain culture-based agenda.

James Baldwin & Richard A. Long | © Susan J. Ross

A native of Philadelphia, Long received his B.A. and M.A. in 1947 and 1948 from Temple University. He did post-graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and abroad in Oxford, England and Paris, France. From 1957-1958 he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Paris, completing doctoral work in medieval literature at the University of Poitiers in 1965. An avid reader since childhood, Long was already intrigued by New Negro era literature when he entered Temple at age sixteen, especially Alain Locke’s The Negro in Art(1940).  In 1944 he visited Locke’s home and had a personal tour of his art collection. The next year, he became the youngest member of the Philadelphia Beaux Art Club, gaining awareness of additional artists from related exhibitions. He saw paintings by Beauford Delaney for the first time at the home of sculptor Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller’s nieces, Dorothy and Marie Warrick ca.1947.  He met Delaney ten years later during his Paris residency, and a lifelong friendship was forged that culminated professionally with the artist creating a portrait of him in 1965, and Long mounting  a retrospective of Delaney’s work at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1978 – a project that was ten years in the making.   

Richard A. Long & Maya Angelou | © Susan J. Ross

Long began teaching English at West Virginia State College – Melvin Van Peeples was his student,  then became a colleague of James E. Lewis and Samella Lewis at Morgan State College (now University).  He returned from an acting lecture position while a Ph.D. student at the University of Poitiers to teach English and French at Hampton Institute (now University) and direct the College Museum.  As the museum administrator, he facilitated the addition of works by William H. Johnson and other established artists acquired for collection. In 1968 he joined the faculty at Atlanta University where he founded the African American Studies program. He was visiting lecturer at Harvard University from 1971-1973, and lectured in linguistics at the University of North Carolina the following year. He took an adjunct position at Emory University in 1973, being named the Atticus Haygood Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University in 1987 until retiring as Emeritus in 2000 with intermittent visiting lecturer positions in West, Central and South Africa.  

Richard A. Long & Radcliffe Bailey | © Susan J. Ross
Richard A. Long, Camille Billops, Crystal Britton & Elizabeth Catlett | © Susan J. Ross

Long served on the editorial boards of the Langston Hughes Bulletin, Phylon and the Zora Neale Hurston Bulletin. He served as president for the College Language Association and the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics. He was Commissioner for the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of African Art and was on the boards of the High Museum of Art and the Society of Dance History Scholars. He founded the Triennial Symposium on African Art, Atlanta University’s Annual Conference at the Center for African and African American Studies and the New World Festivals of the African Diaspora. He was a U.S. Committee Member at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos, Nigeria from 1971-1977 and has acted as a consultant for both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sonia Sanchez, Richard A. Long, Carrie Mae Weems & Stephanie Hughley | © Susan J. Ross

His writings include Black Americana (1985), The Black Tradition in American Dance (1989), African Americans: A Portrait (1993), Grown Deep: Essays on the Harlem Renaissance(1998), One More Time: Harlem Renaissance History and Historicism(2007), and Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration (2008), He edited Negritude: Essays and Studies (1967) (with Albert Berrian) and Afro-American Writing: Prose and Poetry (1972, 1991) (with Eugenia Collier) andBlack Writers and the American Civil War (1989). His work has also been included in over twenty anthologies and encyclopedias of African American culture.

by Amalia K. Amaki

The Richard A. Long Collection of African-American Art makes up the first 47 lots in Swann’s Thursday, October 9 auction. Highlights include works by many of Dr. Long’s artist friends, including Romare Bearden, Beauford Delaney and Alma Thomas.