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Charlotte Osgood Mason
Langston Hughes Papers



A wealthy patron of the arts, Charlotte Osgood Mason contributed more than $100,000 to African-American writers and artists during the Harlem Renaissance, the equivalent of more than $1,000,000 in 2003. Over the course of the 1920s, “Godmother,” as she insisted on being called, sponsored Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, Zora Neale Hurston, and others. Though her financial support gave her protégés considerable freedom to write and make art, travel, and study, Mason also tried to control the kinds of art they made and the ways they represented African Americans in their work. In spite of this, she developed deep personal relationships with some of the artists she supported, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Because she was both manipulative and overbearing, her relationships with African-American artists were rarely without conflict and often ended badly. One white “godchild,” Chicago writer Blanche Matthias, described Mason in “Unknown Great Ones,” published in 1923 in The Woman Athletic: “The little figure of ivory face and white, white hair with lilac dress and softest film of lace about the throat was very exquisite, very serene and outpouring....Our eyes met and I saw the flame leap up, blue as the mysterious color which springs first from the burning log before it changes to violet and orange and then vanishes up the chimney....that blue flame is the Godmother.”1

1 Blanche Matthias, “Unknown Great Ones,” The Woman Athletic, June 1923.



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