Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center is pleased to announce the literary manuscripts and personal papers of writer and artist Allen Polite have been made available for research. 

Recently donated to the Dodd Research Center by Allen Polite’s widow Helene Polite, the collection dates from 1955 to 1993 and contains unpublished manuscripts of his poetry, prose, songs, and a play for voices, early writing and student work, notebooks including drafts and notes, transcriptions of poetry by Helene Polite, as well as a selection of his published works.  This rich collection offers researchers ample source material for exploring Polite’s extensive body of work, for illuminating his life as an expatriate artist and his affiliations with the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, and for revealing his contributions to African-American literature and culture.   An inventory to the collection can be viewed here.

Born in 1932 and raised in Newark, NJ, Allen Polite was drafted into the United States Army in 1952.  After serving in Korea and Japan, Polite settled in Greenwich Village and between 1954 and 1956, studied philosophy at Columbia University.   The writer LeRoi Jones acknowledged Polite as his ‘mentor’ in Jones’ Autobiography and first published Polite’s poetry in 1958 in the little magazine Yugen.  In the early 1960s, Polite worked on a novel, which he never completed, and a long cycle of poetry and prose called “The Dead Seeds”.  He refused, however, to publish his work. 

Polite’s writing was included in Sixes and Sevens, An Anthology of New Poetry (1962) and in Langston Hughes’ New Negro Poets, U.S.A. published in 1964.  In 1963 Polite left New York for Paris, London, and eventually Stockholm, where he visited his friend the painter Harvey Cropper.  He decided to settle in Stockholm, where he joined an international group of artists centered around a small community of African-Americans already resident there.  Polite began a life of drawing and painting, in addition to his writing, and in 1964 organized and sponsored the exhibition “10 American Negro Artists Living and Working in Europe” at Den Frie, the largest gallery in Copenhagen.  In Sweden he met Helene Etzelsdorfer who remained his companion, and later his wife, from 1963 until his death in 1993. 

The Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut welcomes visitors, students, and scholars between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.  Travel grants are available to researchers interested in using the Center’s collections and are awarded on a rolling basis; see application details for more information.

Melissa Watterworth Batt, Curator of Literary, Natural History and Rare Books Collections