Louise Thompson Patterson

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Louise Alone Thompson Patterson
Patterson 1960 in Berlin
Patterson 1960 in Berlin
BornLouise Alone Thompson
(1901-09-09)September 9, 1901
Chicago, Illinois
DiedAugust 27, 1999(1999-08-27) (aged 97)
Amsterdam Nursing Home
New York City
Known forHarlem Renaissance
Spouse(s)Wallace Thurman
William L. Patterson

Louise Alone Thompson Patterson (September 9, 1901 – August 27, 1999) was an American social activist and college professor.


Born in Chicago, Illinois, Patterson became a professor at the renowned Hampton Institute, a historically black college (HBCU) in Virginia by age twenty-two. She worked there for five years.

She moved to New York to the burgeoning artistic community in Harlem. When she first went to New York, she pursued social work, but eventually became a central figure in the literary movement. She had a short marriage to the writer Wallace Thurman, who she said was gay but refused to acknowledge it.

Though Thompson organized a number of protests and opened one of the premiere Harlem salons, she became best known for her close friendship with the author Langston Hughes. Both admired the Soviet system of government and organized a group of twenty-two Harlem writers, artists, and intellectuals to create a film about discrimination in the United States for a Soviet film company. After the project fell through due to lack of funding, and pressures from U.S. business officials to pull away from future diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, Thompson and Hughes returned to the United States to found the Harlem Suitcase Theater, which presented plays written by Hughes and other black writers and featured all-black casts.

For the remainder of her life, Patterson continued to be active in political and social issues.

In September 2017, a biography by Keith Gilyard, Louise Thompson Patterson: A Life of Struggle for Justice, was published by Duke University Press.[1]

Marriage and family[edit]

Thompson married Thurman in August 1928 but their marriage broke up six months later when she discovered that he was homosexual.

She later married William L. Patterson, a prominent member of the American Communist Party.

Later years and social protest[edit]

She joined her husband in protesting the anti-Communist policies of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. In the 1960s, she was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, though by that time her influence was greatly overshadowed by more notable figures.

Patterson died of natural causes on August 27, 1999, shortly before her ninety-eighth birthday, in New York City.[2]


  1. ^ Publishers page: https://www.dukeupress.edu/louise-thompson-patterson
  2. ^ Goldstein, Richard (September 2, 1999). "Louise Patterson, 97, Is Dead. Figure in Harlem Renaissance". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-31. Louise Alone Thompson Patterson, an advocate of civil rights and leftist causes, a participant in the Harlem Renaissance and a longtime associate of one of its leading figures, the poet Langston Hughes, died on Friday at the Amsterdam Nursing Home in Manhattan. She was 97.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Walter T. Howard, We Shall Be Free!: Black Communist Protests in Seven Voices. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2013.
  • Roman, M. L (2012) Opposing Jim Crow: African Americans and the Soviet Indictment of U.S. Racism, 1928-1937, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press