Friday, June 24, 2016

Genealogical Serendipity: Is This How Katherine Met Ivan?

As you know, I've started on a research project called Operation DC. My goal: to build up my contextual understanding of Washington, DC between 1900 and 1964 so that I can find records about - and ultimately better understand - the lives of my grandparents, great-grandparents and associated relatives who were born in or moved to DC during that time.

To that end, I picked up this little stack of books from the library on Wednesday...

(Book list at bottom of page)

...and started reading The Guide to Black Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Significance in the Nation's Capital. And that's when I found what may turn out to be a very useful little gem:

“By the 1920s and 1930s the National Theater was a focal point of antisegregation protest in Washington. The arrival of Marc Connelly’s successful Broadway production, The Green Pastures, starring the distinguished black actor Richard B. Harrison as “de Lawd,” threw the black community into turmoil.
Why does this matter to me?

Well, my great-grandmother Katherine Shepherd married a man named Ivan Lewis Gittens Sharpe, in 1957, in New York City. Ivan was an actor (though how steadily, I don't know). And can you guess the name of one of the plays in which he performed? Yes, The Green Pastures. In fact, here's a review of his acting in this play that appeared in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 10, 1932:

Accessed  on the Old Fulton New York Post Cards website.

I've always wondered how Katherine and Ivan met. Well, I know that Katherine was living in DC until sometime between 1940 and 1957, when she moved to New York. My assumption was that they met there. But this snippet of text from The Black Guide to Washington makes me wonder: Did Katherine meet Ivan in DC while he was performing in The Green Pastures? To get closer to an answer, I'd need to know:

  • When exactly did The Green Pastures come to DC?
  • Was Ivan Sharpe performing in the play at that time?
  • And, if possible, what was the cast up to in DC?
  • Basically, is it likely that he and Katherine crossed paths?

So many questions! You can bet I will be researching this as Operation DC continues!

P.S. Here's the book list!

Evelyn, Douglas E. and Paul Dickson. On This Spot: Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C. Washington, DC: Farragut Publishing Company, 1992.

Fitzpatrick, Sandra, and Maria R. Goodwin. The Guide to Black Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Significance in the Nation's Capital. New York: Hippocrene, 2001.

Gardullo, Paul. The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2009.

Stewart, Allison. First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 2013.

Willis, Deborah, and Jane Lusaka. Visual Journal: Harlem and D.C. in the Thirties and Forties. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1996.

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