Wednesday, April 20, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Harlem's Wedding of the Century

Harlem had a sort of Royal Wedding during the Renaissance years when famous poet Countee Cullen married the daughter of W.E.B. Du Bois in 1928 at the Salem Methodist Church.  Accounts have it that Yolande Du Bois had a total of sixteen bridesmaids but the above photo shows eighteen altogether. Countee Cullen's party was pretty substantial in itself with nine groomsmen altogether and also included fellow poet Langston Hughes. One account has it that 1,200 guests were invited but 3,000 people eventually showed up along with a huge public that waited out in front of the church to get a glimpse of the newly wed couple. Two years later, the ideal marriage of Harlem society would end in divorce because Cullen presumably spent a little too much time with his best man Harold Jackman. Photo via W.E.B Du Bois Library


  1. This is something, really something that you should bring this up now. I was just relating to a friend how my maternal Great-Grand ma was one of the seamstresses for this event. I still have the lace handkerchief that Nina DuBois gave her as a token of her appreciation.

    Yes there were 18 bridesmaids according to my Great Grand ma.

    The other big Harlem Wedding was that of Mae Walker the adopted grand daughter of Mme CJ Walker-that wedding was in November 1923 and I think 9,000 invitations were sent out. The reception was at Villa Lewaro

    I recently emailed Sherri Shepherd of the View who will soon be a Harlem bride suggesting that she should do a segment on stellar Harlem Weddings before her nuptials take place or maybe do a prime-time special.

  2. The papers must of had a field day back then with gay gossip about W.E.B. DuBois & Harold Jackman!!

  3. Greg--great idea!

  4. This past December, New Federal Theatre mounted a fabulous production, "KNOCK ME A KISS" about this wedding. This funny, poignant and flawlessly produced and acted show received a rave review from The New York Times. The producers, including NFT Executive Director Woodie King Jr., hope to bring it to Broadway. Be on the lookout; I saw it and you shouldn't miss it!

  5. Oh Harlem Cubano be careful; it wasn't b/t Harold Jackman & WEB DuBois. It was the relationship b/t Harold & Countee!

    I don't think the papers, especially the 'respectable' black press had much to say about the relationship. However, it was gossiped about among all their friends & associates. Most were surprised to the point of; "...You, Countee, no really, really?"

  6. Looking at the wedding photo above, you make a mistake, there *are* 16 bridesmaids, and one matron of honor, (a higher honor accorded to a best or more important friend by the bride), and one flower girl on the far left edge, front row. You can tell by her dress; she has more ruffled tiers, as all the other bridesmaids tiers are the same number. In addition, and the bridesmaids are all wearing the same very 1920's hair sash, while the flower girl is wearing a headband, more stylistically in keeping with a younger person. She looks to be about 13 yrs or so to me, but just my opinion.

    Takes a woman, or maybe it's the former costume mistress in me, noticing the details. In any event, it's a lovely picture-I just can't figure out why she would marry Countee Cullen, I thought everyone knew of his preference back then.