Brown University Library Special Collections

Guide to the Rudolph Fisher papers available online!

Posted by Jennifer Betts on February 17, 2008

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In celebration of African-American history month, the University Archives is pleased to announce that the guide to the Rudolph Fisher papers is available online at http://pike.services.brown.edu/bamco/bamco.php?eadid=ms-1u-f5.

Rudolph Fisher is a 1919 graduate of Brown University where he majored in English and Biology. After receiving his master’s degree in Biology from Brown, Fisher attended medical school at Howard University. In 1927, Fisher began to work in New York City hospitals as a specialist in roentgenology, an early form of radiology.

While studying and working in the medical field, Fisher wrote numerous short stories and two novels. “The City of Refuge,” Fisher’s first short story, was accepted for publication at Atlantic Monthly in 1923. Following this first success, Fisher has many stories published in well-known publications such as: Opportunity, Crisis, McClure’s, and Story. “The City of Refuge” and “Miss Cynthie” were both selected for Edward O’Brien’s Best Short Stories, in 1925 and 1934.

In 1928, Fisher released his first novel, The Walls of Jericho, to rave reviews in both American and British publications. The Conjure-Man Dies, published in 1932, also received strong reviews, hailing Fisher as the first black mystery writer. Fisher also wrote reviews for many titles, including those later recognized as key works of the Harlem Renaissance, printed in The New Amsterdam and The New York Herald Tribune.

Rudolph Fisher suffered from an intestinal ailment in 1934 that required multiple surgeries in six months. The third surgery proved fatal, and Fisher died December 26, 1934. His death was a shock to the black literary community. Jane Ryder Fisher received sympathy notes from Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Thurston, Alain Locke and other known authors and publishers who helped to create the canon of Harlem Renaissance literature.

Donated to the University Archives by family members, the papers primarily contain various drafts and published copies of twenty-six Rudolph Fisher short stories and novels, as well as book reviews and essays. The collection also contains correspondence, publicity materials, personal papers, family papers and newspaper clippings. Materials cover Fisher’s life from 1919 to his death in 1934, as well as the work on behalf of Fisher done by his sister, Pearl, until 1983.

For more information, please contact the University Archives at archives@brown.edu

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