"Niggerati” or “niggeratti” (nigger + literati) is a term of the Harlem Renaissance to describe Harlem’s writers, artists and musicians. The term was popularized by American novelist Wallace Thurman (1902-1934), who published the magazines FIRE!! and Harlem, each which lasted for only one issue.
Thurman lived at 267 West 136th Street from 1926 to 1928, and this became the setting for “Niggeratti Manor” (the home of the “niggerati” or “niggeratti") in his novel based on Harlem life, Infants of the Spring (1932).
“Niggerati” was only infrequently used after Thurman’s death in 1934 and is of historical interest today.
Blend of nigger + literati
niggerati pl (plural only)
1. The group of young African-American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.
The Niggerati was the name used, with deliberate irony, by Wallace Thurman for the group of young African American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. “Niggerati” is a portmanteau of “nigger” and “literati”. The rooming house where he lived, and where that group often met, was similarly christened Niggerati Manor. The group included Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and several of the people behind Thurman’s journal FIRE!! (which lasted for one issue in 1926), such as Richard Bruce Nugent (the associate editor of the journal), Jonathan Davis, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Aaron Douglas.
At a time when homophobia and sexism were common, and when the African American bourgeoisie sought to distance itself from the slavery of the past and seek social equality and racial integration, the Niggerati themselves appeared to be relatively comfortable with their diversity of gender, skin colour, and background. After producing FIRE!!, which failed because of a lack of funding, Thurman persuaded the Niggerati to produce another magazine, Harlem. This, too, lasted only a single issue.
Wikipedia: Wallace Thurman
Wallace Henry Thurman (1902–1934) was an American novelist active during the Harlem Renaissance. He also wrote essays, worked as an editor, and was a publisher of short-lived newspapers and literary journals. He is best known for his novel The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929), which explores discrimination within the black community based on skin color, with lighter skin being more highly valued.
Thurman and others of the “Niggerati” (the deliberately ironic name he used for the young African American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance) wanted to show the real lives of African Americans, both the good and the bad. Thurman believed that black artists should fully acknowledge and celebrate the arduous conditions of African American lives. As Singh and Scott wrote,
“Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance is, thus, staunch and revolutionary in its commitment to individuality and critical objectivity: the black writer need not pander to the aesthetic preferences of the black middle class, nor should he or she write for an easy and patronizing white approval.”
During this time, Thurman’s flat in a rooming house, at 267 West 136th Street in Harlem, became the central meeting place of African-American literary avant-garde and visual artists. Thurman and Hurston mockingly called the room “Niggerati Manor.” He had painted the walls red and black, which were the colors he used on the cover of Fire!! Nugent painted murals on the walls, some of which contained homoerotic content.
Infants of the Spring
By Wallace Thurman
New York, NY: Modern Library
“We’ve got a name for the house,” Eustace announced as Stephen and Raymond entered.
“What is it?” Stephen asked.
“Whose idea was that?”
“Paul’s, of course.”
“Niggeratti Manor,” Stephen repeated. “I don’t quite get it.”
“You wouldn’t, Steve.”
“All of us can’t be as clever as ou, Paul.”
“I bet Ray gets it...Don’t you?”
“Niggeratti Manor...hmmm...quite appropriate, I would say. God knows we’re ratty enough.”
12 February 1932, New York (NY) Times, “Book Notes,” pg. 19, col. 8:
Walter Thurman, a Negro writer, tells of Harlem’s Negro artists, writers and musicians who gather at the super-Bohemian Nigeratti Manor, in his new book, “Infants of the Spring,” which Macauley published today. The people in the book are of “the lost generation among the Negroes,” the author believes, who are in revolt against the white public that expects from them the quaint, the morbid or the primitive, and are even more cut off from their own race.
20 April 1932, Austin (TX) Statesman, “New York Day by Day” by O. O. McIntyre, pg. 4, col. 3:
NEW YORK, April 20.—Harlem has fomented its own intelligentsia. Along Lenox avenue impolite sneerers call it the niggerati. It is composed of young negroes in the cultural throes of becoming writers, artists and musicians. They hold teas and roup in “salons” to venerate the arts.
8 April 1932, The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD), “Is the Late A’Leila Walker the “Amy Douglas“‘of Thurman Novel?,” pg. 17, col. 6:
Mr. Thurman, whose novel is searching in its realities, depicts the idle and pointless lives of a group of writers, musicians, and artists, their search for something tangible in life to go on. He sets them down in “Niggeratti Manor,” a house, rented out by a woman whose aim was to create a proper atmosphere for struggling artists and writers who had something great to give to the world.
Mr. Thurman makes Madame Walker stand out as the towering figure, at a gin party at “Niggeratti Manor.”
20 February 1969, Oakland (CA) Post, “Negro History in Brief: Jumpin’ Harlem of the 1920’s” by Mia Lomax, pg. 2:
The Negro had for many years been in the theatre and arts but his work was restricted to the Negro world. But the “New Negro”, the artist of the 20’s was a person dependent on the white world. The Negro writer, artist and actor was always seeking white support. In debunking the so-called Negro Renaissance, writer Wallace Thurman, spoke of the artists and writers who exploited the white people who supported them as the “Niggeratti”.
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Edited by Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman
New York, NY: Routledge
The events and discussions in Infants of the Spring are all set in “Niggeratti Manor,” the home of the protagonist, Raymond Taylor—a meeting place of Harlem’s black bohemia. Most of the characters seem to be thinly veiled real-life figures, and Taylor is evidently Thurman’s persona. Similarly, the setting can be identified as Thurman’s home at 267 West 136th Street, where he lived from 1926 to 1928. Except for its top floor (where an actress with two daughters, and another tenant, lived), the house was offered to young African American writers and artists by a black businesswoman, Iolanthe Sidney. In order to help talented young black people, Sidney asked for only a very low rent—or none, when (as frequently happened) her tenants were unable to pay anything at all.
Uploaded on Jan 4, 2010
Plan-B Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, presents the world premiere of WALLACE by Jenifer Nii & Debora Threedy. March 4-14, 2010. Tickets and information at http://planbtheatre.org/wallace
WALLACE intersects the lives of Wallace Stegner, the dean of Western writers, and Wallace Thurman, the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, both of which called Salt Lake City home.
This video of the site of Wallace Thurman’s home at 267 West 136th Street in Harlem - known as Niggeratti Manor, the hub of the Harlem Renaissance.
You Are Leaders!
THE NIGGERATI–Negro Intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance
Posted by ANNA RENEE on 04/07/2010
They saw the irony of their dreams as struggling black artists, dependant on white benefactors to underwrite their artistic endeavors. Yet for the sake of their art, they chose to take the money, no matter what they may have felt about it. These people created together, partied together, fought with each other, and helped each other, as only black folks can and will. They named their crew The Niggerati, and they named those white folks who were interested in their art and coolness and who followed behind them, the Negrotarians. These intellectuals weren’t afraid of their blackness, nor of white reaction to it. They were able to just be their fabulous black selves, the good, the bad, the beautiful, even in the time of strong racial prejudice.
Zora Neale Hurston, the self appointed leader in her mind, dubbed herself “The Queen of the Niggerati”! She understood the power of words and used them skillfully to provoke thought and/or anger!
Late To Niggerati Manor
Uploaded on May 20, 2011
Another Harlem History Moment with the Queen of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston. Zora reflects on the creation of the Negro Magazine “Fire” and the Harlem apartment building where she and the other notable Harlem Luminiaries meet to bring their ideas and visions to life.
How to Pronounce Niggerati
Published on May 30, 2015
This video shows you how to pronounce Niggerati
New York City • Buildings/Housing/Parks • Sunday, September 18, 2016 • Permalink