Scope and arrangement
The Negro Actors Guild Records document the functions and activities of this professional organization. The collection encompasses the constitution and by-laws, reports of meetings and minutes of the executive board; general office files reflecting the significant issues in the early operation of NAG; membership records; and financial records including receipt books for paid membership dues, cancelled checks indicating purpose of welfare fund expenditures in addition to audits, statements and monthly reports. Entertainment committee records include programs, flyers and planning documents for the numerous benefits and programs sponsored by this committee; welfare fund records include reports and printed matter. Of special interest are the historical collections including typescripts, performers' historical file, programs and playbills and newsclippings pertaining to various aspects of the performing arts.
The Negro Actors Guild of America records are arranged in six series:
Consists of membership cards with name, address and noting amount of dues paid each year; cards for deceased members were separated from living members by NAG administrative staff. Forms completed during two membership drives, one in 1973 and the other in 1979-1981 document the necessity to broaden support, especially during turbulent times. Other records consist of minutes and programs of annual meetings of the full membership, correspondence regarding the payment of annual dues and relating noteworthy news in the members' lives; and membership reports listing members annual renewal dates (1975-1980). A special questionnaire seeking information from members for the purpose of aiding the Guild office in providing assistance during sickness, death and other emergencies. Responses to questions regarding place and date of birth, name given at birth, and name of nearest relative, etc. for hundreds of members shed some personal information on these entertainers (1964-1975).
Consists of monthly cash receipts and disbursements for the general account and the welfare fund, receipt books for paid membership dues, Internal Revenue Service tax returns, audits, statements and monthly reports. Specifically for 1975 (during the time period of alleged improprieties that occurred when Ernestine Allen served as administrative secretary), the series includes lists of all expenditures. Of particular note are the unpaid bills submitted to NAG during 1979-1981 when routine business matters were ignored due to internal conflicts. While check stubs for the general account have not been saved by the Schomburg Center for the 1960s-early 1970s when routine bills were paid in a timely fashion, check stubs have been retained for the period 1974-1979 to enable researchers to investigate the possible causes or manifestations of NAG's financial difficulties during that period.
Additional financial records include the check stub book for the promotion account (1970-1977) as well as receipt books for membership dues paid (1970-1980). The unique financial records in this series are the cancelled checks for the welfare fund listing name of recipient, the reason assistance was given and the amount (usually under $50), covering the period 1966-1978. Petty cash vouchers for the welfare fund (1966-1967) and receipts for assistance given (1980) represent these two periods.
Includes the subseries Newsletters, Newsclippings and Journals, 1939-1982 (.8 lin. ft.) and encompasses The Negro Actor, the official organ of the Negro Actors Guild (1939) which was supplanted in 1940 with monthly newsletters and continued until 1978. The newsletters covered, such topics as lists of new and sick members, financial statements, information about special professional performances of members, as well as benefits and programs sponsored by NAG. There are two different issues for December 1975, a result of the factional infighting that occurred within the Guild. Newsclippings (1937-1982) in the New York press concern NAG events such as the fundraising activities it sponsored, in addition to the thefts, infighting, financial turmoil, and finally the dissolution of the Guild. The subseries also includes souvenir programs and journals that commemorate certain anniversaries. The subseries Certificates, Broadsides and Plaques encompasses certificates such as the certificate of incorporation, mayor's proclamation, and some certificates issued members, living and deceased. Posters advertise major events, and bronze plaques were either issued by or to the Negro Actors Guild.
Series was gathered by NAG historian Kenn Freeman in the 1970s as a resource for information about black entertainment in the fields of acting, music, dance, theater, film and television, principally in the United States, but in England as well.