Pepperdine Libraries Acquire Marion Thompson Wright Collection

Collection of Leading African-American Scholar Includes Inscribed Copy of Langston Hughes’ First Poetry Book and Other Major Works by Harlem Renaissance Writers

MALIBU, CALIFORNIA, September 4, 2018 The Pepperdine Libraries are pleased to announce the acquisition of the Marion Thompson Wright Collection. In 1940, Marion Thompson Wright became the first African American historian to receive a doctoral degree from Columbia University, subsequently embarking on an influential career in the fields of sociology and education. An accomplished scholar, Dr. Wright’s research was central to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools in Brown vs. Board of Education.

The collection includes books, journals, and offprints that reflect Dr. Wright’s personal relationships with influential scholars, novelists, and poets who wrote about race relations and the black experience during the mid twentieth-century. Notable items in the collection include a signed copy of W.E.B. Du Bois’ autobiography, Dusk of Dawn; a first edition of Countee Cullen’s debut poetry collection, Color; and first editions of poetry collections by Langston Hughes.


“The Marion Thompson Wright collection aligns beautifully with Pepperdine’s capacious offerings in the fields of education, sociology, history, and literature,” said Dean of Libraries Mark Roosa. “An inimitable figure, Dr. Wright was part of a circle of critical figures in American and African American history. We are thrilled that her collection of rare books and scholarly papers will enrich the collections held at the Pepperdine Libraries and support exciting new teaching and learning initiatives for our undergraduate and graduate students.”  


The Pepperdine Libraries acquired the collection after an overwhelmingly positive response from faculty at Pepperdine’s Seaver College and Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Part of a larger acquisition of rare books and materials for the teaching collections of the Boone Special Collections and Archives at Pepperdine, the Marion Thompson Wright Collection will anchor several future exhibits and faculty partnerships, supporting Pepperdine University’s commitment to diversifying its curriculum and learning resources. The Pepperdine Libraries are also planning related public programming for the spring of 2019.


“Marion Thompson Wright was an American cultural icon,” said Professor David Holmes, Associate Dean of Curriculum and General Education at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College. “A scholar in African American education, history, and sociology, Dr. Wright contributed to enriching the narrative of our collective American experience. The Pepperdine community is blessed to have access to Dr. Wright’s collection of books, journals, and offprints.”  


The Boone Special Collections and Archives at Pepperdine University holds 6,801 rare books and 134 processed collections. Stored in an NEH grant-funded sustainable preservation and storage system, the department’s collections consist of rare book collections, the University Archives, the Malibu Historical Collection, the Churches of Christ Heritage Center, film and television archives, and other book and archival holdings, many of which are accessible to the public online through the Pepperdine Digital Collections. More information can be found at


The Boone Special Collections are located in Payson Library, Pepperdine’s main campus library in Malibu, California. Payson Library reopened last fall after a 15-month, $22.4 million renovation. Influenced by Spanish Revival architecture, the new building design honors tradition while addressing 21st-century needs for digital integration and flexibility to accommodate diverse learning styles. The new additions range from a high-tech makerspace to expanded study areas that seamlessly integrate traditional setups with more informal seating configurations.


With thirteen library locations, the Pepperdine Libraries serve nearly 8,000 students and 800 faculty at Pepperdine University’s campus sites in Southern California, Washington, D.C., and abroad. Expert librarians support research and teaching in Pepperdine’s Seaver College, Graduate School of Education and Psychology, School of Public Policy, and Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. More information can be found at


Highlights from the Marion Thompson Wright Collection:


Cullen, Countee. Color. New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1925.

This first edition and first printing of Countee Cullen’s debut collection of poetry–published at the age of 22– contains one of Cullen’s most famous poems, “Yet I do Marvel.” Considered one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth-century, Cullen was a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance and found popularity with both white and black audiences. This book contains a handwritten note from an acquaintance of Marion Thompson Wright’s, describing how he acquired Cullen’s inscription in the volume.


Du Bois, W.E.B. Dusk of dawn. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, [1940].

A first edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’ second autobiography, the work contains Du Bois’ exposition of “a race concept” through the lens of his own experience. The widely influential author of The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction in America, Du Bois co-founded the NAACP and was the first African-American to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard.




Hughes, Langston. The weary blues. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926.

One of several works by Hughes in the Marion Thompson Wright Collection, this volume is a first edition of Hughes’ first book and contains a personal inscription from Hughes to Dr. Wright: “For Marion Thompson, these poems of Harlem, the sea, and elsewhere– Sincerely, Langston Hughes.” Upon the publication of the work, the 24-year-old author rose swiftly to prominence, later becoming one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance.



Johnson, James Weldon. Negro Americans, what now? New York: Viking Press, 1934.

The first African American professor at New York University, James Weldon Johnson was a well-known writer and active member of the NAACP. This first edition contains James Weldon Johnson’s influential essay describing the struggles facing African Americans during the early twentieth century and outlining potential solutions.


Read about other works recently acquired by the Pepperdine Libraries.


For more information, contact the Melissa Nykanen, Pepperdine University Libraries Boone Special Collections and Archives, at 310.506.4434 or

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Pepperdine Libraries Acquire Marion Thompson Wright Collection