3 Replies Latest reply on Feb 3, 2021 10:02 PM by Sara Brower

    Seeking photos of Perry Watkins


      I'm trying to find images of American theatre designer Perry Watkins (1907-1974). He is credited as being the first Black scenic designer on Broadway for Mamba's Daughters in 1939. He was also the first Black designer to be admitted into the United Scenic Artists union, also in 1939. I was able to find one image (screenshot attached) embedded in an article titled Black Backstage Workers, 1900-1969 by Kathy Anne Perkins (Black American Literature Forum , Winter, 1982, Vol. 16, No. 4, Black Theatre Issue (Winter, 1982), pp. 160-163). The caption for the photo reads:  "Perry Watkins, Broadway's first black union designer. Courtesy of the National Archives." Is there a higher-quality digitized version of this photo available? Thank you!


      Perry Watkins

        • Re: Seeking photos of Perry Watkins
          Cara Jensen Navigator

          Dear Mr. Dearing,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located 14 series regarding the Federal Theater Project in the Records of the Work Projects Administration (Record Group 69) that may contain the photograph of Perry R. Watkins that you seek.  For access to the non-digitized records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures (RDSS) via email at stillpix@nara.gov.


          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDSS.  We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


          In addition, we searched ArchiveGrid and located the Perry R. Watkins portrait collection which may be useful.  The ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials from over 1,000 different archival institutions to assist researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.


          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


          3 people found this helpful
          • Re: Seeking photos of Perry Watkins
            LOC Manuscript Division Tracker

            Dear Jason Dearing:


            I searched the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog and identified a collection that contains portraits of Perry Watkins. The collection has not digitized, but in case in is of interest, you may contact the Prints & Photographs Division regarding access at https://ask.loc.gov/prints-photographs/.


            You may be interested to know that the Library also holds a collection of Federal Theatre Project Records that have been digitized and contain a collection of Watkins' costume designs.


            [Case of Philip Lawrence: Halter neck ballet dress and slippers]


            Best wishes in your research!



            Reference Staff

            Manuscript Division

            Library of Congress

            2 people found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking photos of Perry Watkins

              Also try the Schomberg Center for Black Culture at the New York Public Library. 

              2 people found this helpful