Rosey Pool Collection

Scope and Content

At her death in 1971, Rosey Pool's papers represented five decades of correspondence and editorial work with major black writers of North America, including poet, lyricist and Harlem Renaissance leading light Langston Hughes and cultural polymath W. E. B. Du Bois. Pool also collected contemporaneous material (programmes, periodicals, exhibition catalogues) commemorating African-American movements in politics and art so the collection is rich in both primary and secondary source material. The collection is diverse in form and includes autograph, typescript and printed papers, photographs, tape recordings, letters, periodicals, scrapbooks, sheet music, gramophone records and visual art.

Pool enjoyed a lengthy correspondence with several leading black writers, most notably Owen Dodson, Langston Hughes and Chester Himes. The file of Dodson's letters contains 43 pieces of verse in different formats; Hughes's correspondence (1948-69) comes complete with 63 leaves of verse, theatre programmes and photographs relating to his 'Gospel song-play' Black Nativity.

A large typescript collection contains, among many other works, an edition of James Baldwin's The Amen Corner (c.1955) in a binder, Owen Dodson's Bayou Legend (1946), Langston Hughes's The Gospel Glory: A Passion Play (1962) and Pool's own 1969 study of W E B Du Bois, in Dutch with corrections. A large collection of verse by black American poets includes manuscripts by Du Bois, LeRoi Jones, Robert Hayden and many others.

Langston Hughes features again in the collection of printed music. His composition 'Freedom Land' (complete with autograph dedication) is included, as is 'Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz' which comes with specially inscribed music cues. Recorded material in the archive includes a wide selection of poets reading from their works: Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Hayden are just three poets featured.

Pool's own archive has been augmented by five folders of miscellaneous material including tributes, letters, photographs, etc., assembled by Paul Breman for a proposed memorial volume. The volume was never produced.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in 1905, Rosey (Rosa) Eva Pool grew up in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. Raised by liberal-minded parents who preached against prejudice and in favour of tolerance, Pool developed an avid interest in African-American writing while training to be a teacher. A fan letter to Harlem Renaissance figure Counte Cullen (provoked by a chance reading of his poem 'Incident') mushroomed into frequent correspondence with various African-American poets in the 1920s. By the end of the decade, Pool was studying cultural anthropology in Berlin and completing a thesis entitled 'The Poetic Art of the North American Negro'.

After the Nazi Party took power in Germany, and their persecution of the Jews became increasingly overt, Pool began to speak out against the regime. By 1938 the situation had become too dangerous for her to remain. Before the year was out she had returned to Amsterdam where she taught English to refugees and Jewish children for several years. In May 1943 her family was interned in the Westerbork transit camp and within weeks her parents, her only brother, and his wife had died in Sobibor. In September the Westerbork officials allowed a small group of inmates to travel to Amsterdam to collect books for a projected library and Rosey made her escape. She remained in hiding in Baarn until the war's end, writing poetry inspired by her experiences of the camp, and, through the underground press, publishing poetry translations.

The end of the war marked a return to Amsterdam, and to teaching. A charismatic tutor, Pool became known for her recitals of black poetry. In the same period, she helped an old friend, Otto Frank, locate a publisher for his late daughter Anne's diary. Pool even worked on an English translation, but it was rejected by British publishers.

In 1953 Rosey moved to London to live with long-standing friend Isa Isenberg. Pool continued to publish anthologies and translations of African-American poetry, including two in 1958: Black and Unknown Bard and Ik Zag Hoe Zwart Ik Was ( I Saw How Black I Was) . Her 1962 anthology of poems Beyond the Blues: New Poems by American Negroes showcased the work of, among others, Lloyd Addison, Tom Dent and Calvin C Hernton, all of whom went on to become influential figures in the Black Arts Movement several years later.

During her frequent visits to North America to lecture on poetry and organise creative writing workshops, Dr Pool made no secret of her hatred of racial segregation, pointedly eating from a lunchbox in a public place if no mixed restaurants could be found. In 1966 she sat on the pre-selection committee and the Grand Jury at the First World Festival of Black Arts.

Diagnosed with leukaemia in 1970, Pool responded well to treatment but suffered a fatal stroke the following year.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Dr Isa Isenberg, Pool's executor and friend of many years, in 1972. Additional material presented by Paul Breman.


Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002, with acknowledgement to Neil Parkinson.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.