The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections recently acquired a collection comprised of the personal papers and effects of civil rights activist and cabaret singer Marian Bruce Logan (1920-1993). Marian Bruce was a cabaret singer who performed in clubs in New York City, Paris, and London in the 1940s and 1950s. She later retired from the stage and married Dr. Arthur Logan, personal physician to Duke Ellington.
After retiring from singing, Marian Bruce Logan began working on several civil rights initiatives, including the Student Emergency Fund, which she founded with Jackie Robinson in early 1960. The Fund was set up to help African American college students who weren’t able to make their tuition payments. Logan and Robinson maintained the Fund through money solicited via personal letters and were able to help support students throughout the South.
While working with the Student Emergency Fund, Marian became aware of the Diner Sit-ins, wherein African American college students sat in segregated diners and refused to leave. Marian decided to raise funds to buy books, magazines, and other forms of entertainment for the students to enjoy as they occupied the diners. She asked friends and neighbors for $10 each. Word spread of her efforts and she raised over $1,000.
Her success in raising funds brought her to the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He asked Marian to work raising funds to support the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to bring awareness to civil rights disparities through non-violent demonstrations and protests. She became a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference board, its first Northern board member. She and Arthur became close friends with Martin and his wife, Coretta. King even baptized Marian and Arthur’s son and Marian later accompanied King to Oslo, Norway when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
After the assassination of King in 1968, Marian continued to work with the Southern Christian Leadership board until April, 1969 when she exited the organization, feeling that the group was straying from King’s ideals.
In 1977, Marian was appointed New York City Human Rights Commissioner, a position she held for two years. While serving as Commissioner she became involved with the Black Americans in Support of Israel Committee (BASIC). BASIC was concerned with the treatment of the Black Hebrew Community in Israel. She took two trips to Israel, first in 1978 then again in 1981, to work to resolve the situation. The largest portion of the collection stems from her trips to Israel with BASIC, though the collection spans the duration of her life.
Other items in the collection include correspondence and other documents relating to the various civil rights organizations of which Logan was an active participant, documents relating to Logan’s personal life, including sheet music from her early career as a cabaret singer, and a collection of books signed by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Sidney Poitier are also present in this archive.
Marian Bruce Logan lived an exceptional life that combined art and activism and was well loved and respected by some of the most prominent figures of the civil rights movement and the Marian Bruce Logan Collection of Civil Rights Activism serves as the recorded memory of her great legacy.
Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections