Edmund Thornton Jenkins scores and other material
Papers, dated 1916–1926, consisting of manuscripts of his musical compositions, printed music of his compositions published at his own press (Anglo-Continental-American Music Press in Paris, France), and one folder of biographical information. Also included are clippings and a program (1940) concerning the concert career of his sister, Mildred Jenkins Haughton, and sheet music (1917–1937 and undated) belonging to her.
Received on deposit from Jomo Zimbabwe, son of Mildred Jenkins Haughton, through Gitlin, Emmer and Kaplan of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1990.
Edmund Thornton Jenkins was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and studied at the Avery Institute and Morehouse College. He got his early musical training at the Jenkins Orphanage founded by his father, a Baptist minister, and toured with the Jenkins Orphanage Band during the summers. After travelling to England with the band in 1914, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music. He earned a diploma in 1921. Upon leaving the Academy, Jenkins supported himself by playing in jazz bands and dance orchestras in England and later in Paris where he also began his own publishing company, the Anglo-Continental-American Music Press, which published some of his own compositions.
Around 1920, Will Marion Cook, a noted American composer and performer of both art music and musical theater works, invited Jenkins to direct his Southern Syncopated Orchestra, which performed a mixed repertoire of early jazz and classical music and toured Europe (and the United States) in 1918–1919. After Jenkins grew disappointed by unsuccessful attempts to establish funding and an audience for black orchestral music in America, he returned to Europe in 1924. His operetta, Afram (1924), and the Negro Symphonie Dramatique (1925), indicate a renewed focus on concert music later in his short life. He died in Paris in 1926.
For more information, see: Jeffrey P. Green, Edmund Thornton Jenkins: The Life and Times of an American Black Composer, 1894–1926 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982).
The Jenkins manuscripts include a number of compositions from his student days, and later popular and serious compositions. For some orchestral works only piano scores or incomplete orchestral parts have survived. There are also several unfinished compositions, some only sketches. Both Jenkins's student compositions and his later works show evidence of his interest in and use of African-American folk and popular themes. Two such works for full orchestra were performed during his lifetime: Folk Rhapsody (on American Folk Tunes), which was written and premiered in 1919, and American Folk Rhapsody: Charlestonia, written in 1917 and premiered in 1925. His operetta, Afram ou la belle Swita, set partly in Africa, includes a chorus in an African language, along with American songs. Another late work, his Negro Symphonie Dramatique, subtitled “Scenes de la Vie d'un Esclave,” exists only as a piano score.
One folder of printed biographical material is included, but the family correspondence on which Green based his book is not part of this collection.