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Columbia College Chicago
Eileen Southern papers

Eileen Southern papers

Southern, Eileen

Papers, 1974–1997 including research files, correspondence, sheet music, photographs, and other materials from her numerous publications and her academic career.

51 boxes

Donated by Joseph Southern, 2003.

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

Biographical note:

Eileen Southern (1920–2002) was a musicologist, teacher, author, editor, and publisher. She trained and performed as a concert pianist but earned BA and MA degrees in musicology from the University of Chicago (1940, 1941) and a PhD from New York University (1961). She taught at several institutions, becoming the first black female tenured professor at Harvard (1976), where she chaired the Afro-American Studies Department during 1975–1979. She retired from teaching in 1987. Her numerous published works include writings on early music in addition to The Music of Black Americans (3rd edition, W.W. Norton, 1997). First published in 1971, it was a pioneering work in the field of black music. She followed it with reference works, including the Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Greenwood Press, 1982) and African-American Traditions in Song, Sermon, Tale, and Dance, 1600s–1920 (Greenwood Press, 1990) compiled with Josephine Wright. From 1973 to 1990, with her husband Joseph Southern, she edited and published The Black Perspective in Music (BPiM), which, for the first seven years of its existence, was the only scholarly journal on the subject. She died in Florida in 2002.

Scope note:

The collection contains files on a number of musicians and composers, often including correspondence, which Southern used mainly to compile her biographical dictionary; files from her tenure at Harvard; miscellaneous academic and professional correspondence arranged by name of correspondent and then by date; files of materials concerning the Hyers Sisters and early African-American drama used for her editions of Out of Bondage and Peculiar Sam, Or, The Underground Railroad published as volume 9 of the series Nineteenth-Century American Music Theater (Garland Publishing, 1994); a collection of historical photographs used to compile her book Images: Iconography of Music in African-American Culture, co-authored with Josephine Wright (Garland Publishing, 2000); a collection of photographs of musicians and performers for publication in BPiM; photographs taken during trips to Africa; a collection of recorded interviews, some of which were published in BPiM, and a file of letters from composer, bandleader and publisher W. C. Handy to composer William Grant Still (1935–1958), also published in BPiM; a collection of sheet music by African-American composers including photocopies of nineteenth-century published music.