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Columbia College Chicago
Dena J. Epstein papers

Dena J. Epstein papers

Epstein, Dena J. Polacheck, 1916–

Papers, dated 1947 to 2005, with the bulk of the materials dated 1955–1998, consisting of files, notes, correspondence and other materials relating to her research on African-American folk music before the Civil War.

28 boxes, circa 11 linear feet

Donated by Dena J. Epstein, 2002–2005. Additional donations expected.

This collection was processed with funding provided through a Preservation and Access Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical note:

Dena J. Epstein is a music librarian and musicologist. She earned a BA from the University of Chicago (1937) and BS and MS degrees in library science from the University of Illinois (1939, 1943). She held library positions at several libraries, including the Library of Congress, before becoming Assistant Music Librarian at the University of Chicago in 1964, retiring in 1986.

Scope note:

The papers consists of files, correspondence, and notes, a personal oral history transcript and other biographical information spanning Epstein's nearly 60 year career as music librarian and historian. Correspondents of particular interest include scholars, publishers, and personal family members, as well as several descendants of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Among her correspondents are African-American historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., founding director of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College Margaret Storrs Grierson, noted American music historian H. Wiley Hitchcock, musicologist Eileen Southern, composer, historian and author Helen Walker-Hill, CBMR founder and musicologist Samuel Floyd Jr., and other noted scholars.

Reference and research notes, illustration photographs and other materials for her book Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1977) make up a large portion of the papers, in addition to the correspondence. Also included are notes and correspondence concerning her other publications and writings, including information and correspondence about the origins of the banjo.