Belle da Costa Greene: Additional Resources

Select Resources on Belle da Costa Greene

Ardizzone, Heidi. An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.

This book is the only book-length biography on Belle da Costa Greene. It examines the social spheres that Greene engaged in and how she moved across lines of color, class, and culture.

Bates, Karen Grigsby. "The Story Of J.P. Morgan's 'Personal Librarian' — And Why She Chose To Pass As White." NPR, August 31, 2021.

This article interviews the authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, who wrote the Personal Librarian, a recent novel based on the life of Belle da Costa Greene.

Brooklyn Public Library. "On Passing." Borrowed Podcast, November 18, 2022.

Belle da Costa Greene and Nella Larsen are two librarians of color, one who is white-passing, and the other of mixed heritage who wrote famously about the phenomenon of passing in her novels. This podcast featuring Adwoa Adusei, Krissa Corbett Cavouras, and Daria Rose Foner tells the stories of these women and asks what they can tell us about race in librarianship and literature. Listen on the Brooklyn Public Library Website.

Colclough, Joanna. "Belle da Costa Greene: Library Director, Advocate, and Rare Books Expert." Headlines & Heroes: Newspapers, Comics & More Fine Prints (Blog). Library of Congress. February 8, 2022.

This post on the Library of Congress website focuses on newspaper articles that feature Belle da Costa Greene. This exploration of primary materials charts Greene's career developments from her being hired as Morgan's private librarian to her retirement as director.

The Duke Franklin Humanities Institution. "Belle da Costa Greene: The Black Woman Who Lead The Morgan Library & Museum." Left of Black. March 28, 2023.

Dr. Tracy D. Sharpley-Whiting gives an overview of Belle da Costa Greene and Jean Strouse's discovery of her passing. This is a short segment from an interview with the Duke Franklin Humanities Institution on the importance of libraries.

The Morgan Library & Museum. "Belle da Costa Greene, the Morgan's First Librarian and Director." About Belle da Costa Greene.

The Morgan Library provides biographical information on Belle da Costa Greene's life and role in the library. Their ongoing research on Greene will be featured in their 2024 exhibition and the continued digitization of the Belle Greene-Bernard Berenson Letters Project. Additional Morgan Library Resources:

Garner, Bonnie Jean. "Duchamp Bottles Belle Greene: Just Desserts for His Canning." The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal. Updated May 22, 2019.

This article shows extrapolates on references to Belle da Costa Greene in artist Marcel Duchamp's Belle Haleine: Eau de Voilette (1921).

Works of Fiction: 

Left of Black: Bella da Costa Greene

Select Resources on Passing

Kwok, Roberta. "To Escape Jim Crow–Era Discrimination and Violence, Some Black Men Passed as White. But How Many?" Kellogg Insight, April 1, 2021.

Cultural economists Ricardo Dahis, Emily Nix, and Nancy Qian use census data to find a more exact estimate of the number of black men that passed for white between 1880-1940.

Hobbs, Allyson. A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

This book provides a history of racial passing in the United States. Hobbs details the possibilities and challenges awarded to people that passed as white in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. The book recognizes the loss and loneliness accompanied by passing.

PBS Digital Studios. "What is Racial Passing?" Origin of Everything, February 27, 2019.

This video details the complicated history of passing in the United States and what would motivate someone to disguise their identity.

Works of Fiction: 

Select Resources Related to Exhibition Objects

Dennihy, Melissa. “Talking the Talk: Linguistic Passing in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia.” Melus 42, no. 2 (2017): 156–76. 

This essay argues that, in Danzy Senna’s 1998 novel Caucasia, passing is often portrayed as a linguistic act, dependent as much upon the audible as the visible. 

Elliott, Richard. “‘The Fantasy of Purity Is Appalling’: (De)constructing Identity in The Human Stain.” Philip Roth Studies 16, no. 1 (2020): 92–110.

This essay argues that Philip Roth's The Human Stain accommodates a position that is antithetical to Coleman's belief that he can transcend his history, reading Roth's novel in light of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre's insistence that one's life must be understood in the context of a narrative over which one has limited control.

Ryan, Melissa. “Rena's Two Bodies: Gender and Whiteness in Charles Chesnutt's The House Behind the Cedars." Studies in the Novel 43, no. 1 (2011): 38–54. 

This article is a critical exploration of gender issues in the novel The House Behind the Cedars by Charles Chesnutt. It takes account of the gendered aspect of passing seen in the juxtaposition of the Walden siblings.