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Thu, 05.18.1854

Charlotte Osgood Mason born

Charlotte Osgood Mason

*Charlotte Osgood Mason was born on this date in 1854.  She was a white-American socialite and philanthropist. 

Born Charlotte Louise Van der Veer Quick, she was from Franklin Park, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Peter Quick and Phoebe Van der Veer. She was raised by her maternal grandfather, Schenck Van der Veer, whose last name she took.  She married Rufus Osgood Mason on April 27, 1886.  She came from a rich family and her wealth increased after the death of her husband Rufus Osgood Mason.

She used her wealth to support artists such as Aaron DouglasLangston Hughes, Arthur Fauset, and Miguel Covarrubias of the Harlem Renaissance, and in particular Zora Neale Hurston's project of Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo", 1927, unpublished until 2018.  While all of the supportive black interest and in­tervention on behalf of Mason, her role in Harlem Renaissance scholarship was also one of controlling, demeaning and patronizing as well.  Critique of Mason and dismissal of her as delusional tyrant, scholars have attacked her essentialist views glossing over the fact that other whites and prominent black leaders shared her tendency toward essentialist thinking.  Mason’s biography confirms that “the most detailed information on her life is in the auto­ biographies and biographies of the major Harlem Renaissance figures she patronized.”

Mason achieved much of the anonymity and obscurity that she sought, even avoiding a published obituary in the New York Times. Tracing her portrayal through autobiographical, bi­ographical and other scholarly accounts reveals a loss of the nuances of complex human relationships and the evolution of an immediately recognizable caricature a white-haired, racist tyrant perched high atop her throne. Inseparable in Harlem Renaissance studies is her search for spiritual illumination through the art of what she saw as primitive peoples, Mason typified the evils of white patronage in the face of essentialist agendas for racial uplift that extended from Harlem Renaissance leaders like Alain Locke to modern scholarship on the age of the New Negro.  Charlotte Osgood Mason died on April 15, 1946 in New York City.  

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