24 April (1933): Helene Johnson to Dorothy West

Here, Helene Johnson writes to Dorothy West, fellow author of the Harlem Renaissance, telling her of life in the U.S. and urging her to return home from USSR. West had travelled to Moscow along with Langston Hughes and a large contingent of prominent Black leftists, writers, and artists, to film “Black and White,” a movie about racially-fueled social injustices in the Latino sugar market.

April 24, 1933

Dearest Dimpsie,

Darling little cousin, Tommy is sending you this $5 for your birthday and she sends with it all her good wishes and all her love. She is very good to me, darling Dimp, and she is your really and truly fine friend.

I cabled you to come home against my own wishes, dear, but because the family wants you back so. You’ve been away so long, darling, and they are worries about you and I’m afraid to have you stay over there so far from home or my responsibility. I love you and want you to stay and work hard and make good, things are so terrible over here, but you know how families are. 

Of course you stay with me Dot when you return. Ray wants you to live at Inez’ but I think you and I would have lots of fun together here and Tommy and Lloyd and Olivia and Al Thayer and all your own particular and dearest friends want you back here. They all miss you so. Geo. Bernard Shaw’s been over here since you’ve been gone. We can go to Oak Bluffs too after the crowd goes or after they’re there. Darling, you’ll be the catch of the season. 

It will be wonderful, seeing you again, Dot dear. Take good care of yourself and do as you think best about returning. I wish they’d just give you a return ticket. The family wants you back awfully bad. We all miss you and love you.

Love to you, always and always, your own Big Cousin,



From Where the Wild Grape Grows: Selected Writings, 1930-1950. West, Dorothy, Cynthia J. Davis, and Verner D. Mitchell. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005.