From South Sioux City to the Harlem Renaissance

Who was Doctor, Tom Stewart?  This was the question posed by the biographer, Patrick McGilligan, when he contacted the reference desk of the library. 

Patrick McGilligan is a biographer, who focused on members of the entertainment community.  At the time, the library had a copy of his biography of Jack Nicholson, Jack’s Life. He was doing research on author and movie director Oscar Micheaux.

Micheaux was an African American, born in Metropolis, Illinois.  He moved to Chicago at age 17th.  He took many jobs, but concentrated on writing and later turning his books into movies.  He moved to western South Dakota, where he worked as a rancher.  Eventually, his success brought him to Harlem, during what was called the Harlem Renaissance. 

His path took him to Sioux City’s West 7th street, where he set up a book publishing and movie making company.  This is where McGilligan crossed paths with the South Sioux City Public Library.  McGilligan found that a name that was on Micheaux’s publishing company lived in South Sioux City, Doctor Thomas Stewart. 

We were able to find some information on Stewart’s family, enough so he could make a contact and fill in some information about Doctor, Tom Stewart. 

Stewart was a large animal veterinarian, who worked with the USDA inspecting cattle in the meat packing plants in Sioux City.  It turned out that Stewart was an active supporter of African-American causes, including the work of Micheaux’s publishing company. 

This is South Sioux City’s link with the Harlem Renaissance, a large animal veterinarian, who supported the work of the first and greatest African-American movie director of the first half of the 20th century.

By Dan Nieman

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