Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > History > 116. L. S. Alexander Gumby

116.  L. S. Alexander Gumby (1885-1961).  Collection of Negroiana. New York, ca. 1800 - 1961. Multi-media. RBML, Gumby Collection

Earlier treasures of the Columbia libraries exhibits have overlooked the achievement of Alexander Gumby, a book collector and Harlem hairdresser who compiled a remarkable series of scrapbooks that document African-American life in America. Gumby started his collection in 1901 at the age of sixteen, and in 1910 began the process of gathering the material into scrapbooks. Most of the material dates from the period 1910 until 1950, the year that he presented the collection to the Columbia University Libraries. Whole volumes are devoted to major figures such as Booker T. Washington, Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker. In addition to his six volumes of personal scrapbooks, labeled "Gumby's Autobiography," that came with the original collection, the library has recently acquired materials that were held back as too private, detailing his life as a gay black man.

Gift of L. S. Alexander Gumby, 1950

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