Noted cultural historian Richard A. Long not only supported and promoted the arts, he nurtured many in the arts community.
“I just have a basic interest in human expressivity, the way humans express themselves. And then I’m interested in narrative, stories, how things are told. Narrative runs through visual arts, literature, aspects of music, dance,” Long told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2007.
Long, of Atlanta, died at his home of natural causes last week. He was 85. The body will be cremated. Murray Brothers Funeral Home, Cascade Chapel, is in charge of arrangements. A memorial service will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 26 at the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries. A larger celebration of his life is being planned for the spring.
Long was born in Philadelphia and, according to a 1989 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he knew from his youth that he wanted to teach. “Gradually, I decided I wanted to be an English teacher at college level and I taught my first college class at age 20 as a grad student at Temple.”
“He was always very serious from a very young age; serious and studious,” said his brother, Curtis W. Long of San Diego. “We spent three years of our young lives in Columbia, S.C., and I was under his charge at that time. He took me around and showed me various historical places.”
Long received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Temple University, did doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania, was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Paris and received his doctoral degree at the University of Poitiers.
Paris was one of his favorite cities. He visited twice a year. “He did not value the trappings of cars, houses and that kind of thing,” said Tina Dunkley, Director of the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries. “He valued air transportation and getting to experience other cultures.”She called Long, “a fascinating man who could have had his own show relative to his commentary on the daily news.”
“Dr. Long, who was well-established and well-respected, saw the benefit of social media and how it can be used to effectively to promote art,” said Najee Dorsey, founder of Black Art In America, an online social network focused on African-American art.
Sara Hollis, the Director of Master of Arts in Museum Studies program at Southern University, and a student of Long’s at Atlanta University, referred to Long as, “The most brilliant scholar I ever studied under. He seemed like a walking encyclopedia with knowledge of many subjects.”
He was the author of several books, including “Black Americana”, “The Black Tradition in American Dance”, and “Grown Deep: Essays on the Harlem Renaissance”.
According to Long’s website, he was the founder of the Triennial Symposium on African Art and of the New World Festival of the African Diaspora. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, was a life member of the Board of Directors of the High Museum of Art and served on the National Planner Committee of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival.
His papers were donated to the Atlanta Fulton Public Library’s Auburn Avenue Research Library.