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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 interested in a variety of different topics including the arts, racism and discrimination, Jewish life and culture, and West Africa. These topics show up in all areas of her work and are prominently represented in her personal research.

Cartwright was a prolific writer of essays, newspaper articles and journal articles. The bulk of the materials include her articles from the Pittsburgh Courier and the Negro History Bulletin, where she served as an editor and consultant. Her writings also display her efforts to highlight African American achievement, particularly within the United Nations and in the entertainment industry.

Cartwright was also a member of many organizations which primarily focused on the arts, intercultural relations, United States-Africa relations as well as professional organizations. The most notable organization is the United States-based Overseas Press Club, which highlighted the work of journalists covering international stories.

The bulk of this collection consists of Dr. Cartwright’s collected research, which supported her work. She created a file for each member country of the United Nations. Each of these files includes newspaper clippings, publications and photographs about that country. In particular, this section gives a good overview of the newly independent and newly formed nations following World War II, such as Algeria, Ghana, Guyana, Israel and Nigeria and the issues faced within those countries.

As an avid scrapbooker, Cartwright compiled much of her research into scrapbooks, making it more easily accessible to her. These scrapbooks provide an excellent snapshot about topics and the United Nations member countries. She also created scrapbooks detailing her own life, career and travels as well as her husband’s.

This collection also contains personal and professional correspondence. Notable correspondents include heads of state such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who served as Nigeria’s first president from 1963 to 1966 following the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1960; and Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.

This collection also contains a large collection of photographs. These photographs primarily document representatives and delegates to the United Nations from member countries. There are also photographs of the United Nations headquarters in New York City as well as photographs documenting the activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Oganization (UNESCO) in Africa. The remaining photographs are Cartwright’s personal photographs of her family and friends and of contemporary celebrities such as Marian Anderson and Harry Belafonte.

Lastly, this collection includes audiovisual materials which consist of samples of international journalism submitted by journalists to the Overseas Press Club.


  • 1912-1984


Language of Materials

The Cartwright papers are in English unless where otherwise noted.

Conditions Governing Access

The Marguerite Cartwright papers are open and available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Biographical Note

Dr. Marguerite Cartwright (1910-1986), educator, writer and journalist.

Marguerite Phillips Cartwright (née Dorsey) was born May 17, 1910 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the only child of Joseph A. and Mary Louise Ross Dorsey. She finished her schooling at age 15, and then attended Boston University where she earned her bachelor of science degree in 1932. 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 (1906-1982). L.C. Cartwright was born in Flatwoods, Missouri and moved to the East Coast as a young man. At the time he met Marguerite, Leonard was working as a tutor. He eventually found employment as a chemist. They married when she was 19. In 1948 Marguerite Cartwright wrote a thesis about Dionysus as an African and earned her doctor of education degree in social studies from New York University. While she was working on her doctorate, Marguerite practiced social work in New York City. She also conducted postdoctoral work in education at Columbia University.

Marguerite Cartwright’s acting career began in 1934 on Broadway with the role of Flossie Tucker in Paul Green’s Roll Sweet Chariot. She was cast in the 1936 film Green Pastures as the “Beautifullest Angel” and had a few small parts in other movies. In addition to acting, Cartwright was also a dancer at Harlem’s renowned Cotton Club. Though her career in acting and dancing mostly encompassed the early part of her career, her interest in the performing arts and in fashion was lifelong.

After an early career as an actor, Cartwright worked as an educator. In 1945 she attended the second annual Institute on Race Relations at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Beginning in 1949, she taught sociology and a course titled “American Negro Culture” in the school of General Studies at Hunter College. She simultaneously taught courses at Brooklyn College (1948-1950), the Mills College of Education (1950-1952) and the New School for Social Research, a progressive institution in New York City.

Throughout her professional career, Cartwright was a prolific writer. She began writing for the Negro History Bulletin in 1950 after she was approached by the editors. In 1952 she became a United Nations correspondent and wrote a number of columns about the UN and world affairs for the Pittsburgh Courier and other publications. In 1955 she joined the United Nations Correspondents Association and the Overseas Press Club. Cartwright also wrote for the New York Amsterdam News, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Courier and the Courier Magazine. She was 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. Cartwright wrote about her passion for journalism in an application to the Fund for Adult Education’s Leadership Training Awards, which would have allowed her to take journalism courses at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. As she described it, her decision to make journalism her life’s work was due to many factors. Journalism allowed for a unique combination of travel, varied life experiences, broad academic training and the strengthening and maintenance of democracy through the creation of an informed citizenry. She specifically sought out opportunities to write about foreign and international relations for African American publications because of the dearth of trained journalists serving that population.

As an accredited journalist to the United Nations, Dr. 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 officer during the Seventh UN Assembly for the Department of Public Information. She also covered the U.S. Commission for UNESCO in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cartwright was a global traveler for work and pleasure. She visited Nigeria and Ghana on multiple occasions. From 1946 to 1956 she conducted field research projects in the United States, Mexico, Caribbean and the Middle East. As a journalist, she covered the Zagreb Conference in Yugoslavia in 1951 and was granted an interview with Marshal Josip Broz Tito. Cartwright first visited West Africa in 1955. While there, she had a special audience with Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. After her layover in Ghana, Cartwright continued on her way to Indonesia to cover the Bandung Conference, which was the first large-scale Asian-African conference meant to foster cooperation between countries and oppose colonialism.

In 1956, she visited the Gold Coast of Africa at the invitation of the U.S. government for a lecture circuit in local schools and colleges. While there, she covered the Gold Coast elections. In 1957, she was invited to West Africa as President Nkrumah’s guest for Ghana’s independence celebrations. In 1985, at the age of 75, Dr. Cartwright attended the United Nations Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to her work in Nigeria as a journalist, Cartwright also served the country as a founder-trustee of the Provisional Council of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. She was nominated to this position in 1959 by the first Nigerian president, Nnamdi Azikiwe. There is a street named for Cartwright on the university’s campus. Later, she would be authorized to write Azikiwe’s autobiography. Cartwright was popular with many African leaders and diplomats in addition to Nkrumah and Azikiwe, including Ghanaians Komla Agbeli Gbedemah and Kojo Botsio, who both served in President Nkrumah’s government, and Nigerian philanthropist and businessman Mobolaji Bank-Anthony. Cartwright had a wide variety of research interests, but was primarily interested in Africa, race relations and the arts. These interests are reflected in her travels, her writings and in the items she collected. She was a patron of the performing arts and supported the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera and the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center. As for issues involving African Americans and Africa, she championed organizations such as the American Committee on Africa, the Peace Corps, the Harlem Fashion Institute and the American Council on Race Relations. Cartwright was also involved in professional organizations, including the American Association of University Women and the Public Education Association. Dr. Marguerite 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, Leonard Carl Cartwright, who died in 1982. Sources:


165.69 Linear Feet


The Marguerite Cartwright papers have been arranged into ten series: Correspondence and other materials, Writings, Organizations, Higher Education, United Nations files, United Nations Country Files, Theater Files, Subject Files, Collected Publications and Ephemera, and Photographs, Audovisual, and Oversized materials.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Audiovisual materials in this collection are not on site. Please contact the Research Services Department for more information at 504-862-3222 or

Related Materials

Related collections at the Amistad Research Center include the papers of Evelyn C. Cunningham who was a contemporary of Cartwright's at the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper and the papers of Edward Dudley which document US foreign relations in mid-century Africa and served as the United States Ambassador to Liberia. Other collections containing materials about the United Nations include the Arnold de Mille papers and the Marr-McGee Family paper. Other related collections include the American Committee on Africa records, the American Committee on Africa records addendum, the Race Relations Department of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries records, and Operation Crossroads Africa.

The papers of law professor Patricia J. Williams, a relative of Marguerite Cartwright, are housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University.

Processing Information

This collection was processed with funding assistance from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Marguerite Cartwright papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

6823 Saint Charles Avenue
Tilton Hall, Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118 US
(504) 862-3222