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Cartwright, Marguerite, 1910-1986



  • Existence: 1910 - 1986

Biographical Note

Dr. Marguerite Phillips Dorsey Cartwright was an educator, actress, writer and newspaper correspondent. She was born May 17, 1910 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the only child to Joseph A. and Mary Louise Ross Dorsey. She finished her schooling at age 15, and then she attended Boston University. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1932 and a Master’s degree in Drama. At the time, she was the youngest person to receive those degrees from the university. While at Boston University, she met her future husband, Leonard Carl Cartwright who worked as a tutor at the time, and later worked as a chemist. They married when she was nineteen. She earned her Ed. D in Social Studies from New York University in 1948 and wrote a thesis about Dionysus as an Africa. While she was working on her doctorate, she engaged in social work in New York City. She also did Post-Doctoral work in education at Columbia University.

Her acting career began with Paul Green’s “Roll Sweet Chariot” as Flossie Tucker on Broadway and included casting in “Green Pastures” as the Beautifullest Angel, as well as other parts in movies. She was also a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club. Though her career in acting and dancing most encompasses the early part of her career, she remained her interest in the performing arts and in fashion. After acting, Dr. Cartwright also worked as an educator. She taught sociology and a course on Africa and the Negro at Hunter College in the school of General Studies beginning in 1949. She also taught at Brooklyn College from 1948-1950, the Mills College of Education from 1950-1952, and the New School for Social Research (now known as the New School). In 1945, she attended the second annual Institute on Race Relations at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

She also has an extensive career in writing. Dr. Cartwright began writing for the Negro History Bulletin in 1950 after she was approached by the editors. She became a United Nations Correspondent in 1952 for the Pittsburgh Courier where she would publish a column about the UN. In 1955, she joined the United Nations Correspondents Association and the Overseas Press Club. She also wrote for The New York Amsterdam News, Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Courier, and the Courier Magazine. She was also a frequent contributor to journals such as Social Studies, National Education Association Journal, Phylon, Journal of Negro Education, Scientific Monthly, and the Christian Science Monitor.

Dr. Cartwright wrote about her passion for journalism in an application to the Fund for Adult Education’s Leadership Training Awards that would have allowed her to take journalism courses at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. She decided to make journalism her life’s work due many factors such as its use of a unique combination of travel, a rich, varied background, and a broad general academic training and journalism’s role in strengthening and maintaining democracy by creating an informed citizenry. She specifically sought out opportunities to write about foreign and international relations in African-American publications because of a lack of trained journalists serving that population.

As an accredited journalist to the United Nations, Cartwright covered the Sixth UN Assembly in Paris France in 1951. In 1952, she served as a delegate to the U.S. Commission for UNESCO. In 1953 she was a Liaison Office during the Seventh UN Assembly for the Department of Public Information. She also covered the U.S. Commission for UNESCO in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Dr. Cartwright also travelled extensively—especially to Nigeria and Ghana. She also covered events around the world. In 1951, she covered the Zagreb Conference in Yugoslavia and was granted an interview with then Marshal Josip Broz Tito. She also made a speech on human rights that was broadcasted over the Voice of America. She first visited west Africa in 1955 on her way to Indonesia to cover the Bandung Conference, the first large scale Asian-African conference meant to foster cooperation between countries and oppose colonialism. While she was in West Africa, she visited with Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. In 1956, she visited the Gold Coast at the invitation of the government to lecture in schools and colleges. She also covered the Gold Coast elections while she was there. In 1957, she was invited to West Africa as Nkrumah’s guest to Ghana’s independence celebrations. From 1946 to 1956, she conducted field research projects in the United States, Mexico, Caribbean, and Middle East. In 1985, she attended the United Nations Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 1959, after being nominated by the first Nigerian President Nnamde Azikiwe, she was appointed to the Provisional Council of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka where she became a founder-trustee. She also has a street named after her on the university’s campus. Later, she would be authorized to write Azikiwe’s autobiography. Cartwright was also popular with with many African leaders and diplomats in addition to Nkrumah and Azikiwe, such as Komla Agbeli Gbedemah and Kojo Botsio, who both served in Nkrumah’s government as well as Nigerian philanthropist and businessmen Mobolaji Bank-Anthony

Cartwright had a wide variety of research interests, but she primarily interested in Africa, race relations, and the arts which are reflected in her travels, her writings, and in the items she collected. She was also involved in numerous organizations dealing with the arts and issues involving African-Americans and Africa such as the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, the American Committee on Africa, the Peace Corp, and the Harlem Fashion Institute, the American Council on Race Relations. She was also involved in professional organizations such as the American Association of University Women and the Public Education Association.

Dr. Cartwright passed away on May 5, 1986 at the age of 76, after a brief illness following a stroke. She was preceded in death by her husband who died in 1982.


Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Marguerite Cartwright papers

Identifier: 72
Content Description The papers of actress, journalist and educator Dr. Marguerite Cartwright chronicle her personal life, career and academic endeavors. The collection encompasses 165.59 linear feet and provides an in-depth look at African Americans and world affairs, contemporary issues facing the United States in the mid-twentieth century, the anti-colonialism movement following World War II, and the United Nations through her work as an accredited UN correspondent for the Pittsburgh Courier. She was...
Dates: 1912-1984