All Series Level Scope and Content Notes
The Eva Jessye Collection contains both personal papers of Jessye, as well as material collected by Jessye. The Eva Jessye collection is made up of twelve series: Biographical; Correspondence; Eva Jessye Choir; Writings (Performances, Poetry and Speeches); Music; Productions; Eva Jessye Programs; Collected Programs; Eva Jessye Clippings; Black History Clippings; Photographs; and Awards and Certificates.
The Biographical series (0.25 linear feet) consists of personal documents, such as Jessye's Equity contract, a sparsely notated travel diary, as well as personal reflections and notes on a range of topics including her experiences performing Porgy and Bess and memories of touring and traveling the world.
The Correspondence series (0.75 linear feet) contains personal and professional correspondence from 1927 to 1992. The first subseries organizes correspondence alphabetically by author, while the second subseries is organized by year. Undated and unknown sender items as well as thank-you notes and postcards are collected at the end of the series. Of special interest are letters from Jessye to friends and colleagues around the country. In these letters Jessye discusses putting on productions of Paradise Lost, of the creations and dedications of her collections and her experiences at Michigan and Pittsburg State. While most of the letters are originals, there are some reproductions of correspondence from Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes and others.
The Eva Jessye Choir series (0.2 linear feet) contains articles and reviews of the choir as well as advertisements, programs, and personnel lists of the group. Though it is a small series, it spans the life of the group from the 1920s to the 1960s. For photographs of the choir, see the Photographs series.
The Writings (Performances, Poetry and Speeches) series (0.5 linear feet) collects Jessye's production, poetry and speech output. All subseries are organized alphabetically by title. The production subseries includes performances for which she wrote or arranged the lyrics/script for the production. Jessye composed poetry for a number of occasions including odes to friends and colleagues and public celebrations and performances. Several of these poems are collected in the small pamphlet titled "Selected Poems." The Speeches subseries consists of copies and drafts of speeches from the 1970s and 1980s.
The Music series (0.2 linear feet) holds both published and manuscript sheet music that was composed, adapted, arranged and or edited by Jessye. Many of the pieces are arrangements of spirituals for small chorus groups. This series is arranged alphabetically by song title.
The Productions series (1.1 linear feet) documents various dramatic and musical productions that Jessye worked on as a conductor, organizer, and choral director. The material is grouped by production title and holds various genres including scripts, vocal scores, programs, stage readings and instructions, and character/cast lists. Items of particular note include: Jessye's vocal score for the Four Saints opera; background and research material that went into creating The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground, a production composed by Jessye and based on the memoirs of William Carney, who fought in the Battle for Fort Sumter; extensive score, libretto and direction material for Jessye's adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost and Regained; cast materials and scripts for the 1969 movie Slaves; and production material for Langston Hughes' musical Tambourines to Glory.
The Eva Jessye Programs series (1.0 linear feet) includes programs for productions that Jessye was involved with. The bulk of the collection is programs for Porgy and Bess between 1935 and 1992 including tours of American cities, universities and international productions. These programs are organized by data of performance with undated and unknown venue productions grouped at the end. The Other Programs subseries collects non- Porgy and Bess performances including musical concerts and dramatic productions. Included as outsized materials are a number of concert posters for events that Jessye was a part of or that were organized as fundraisers.
The Collected Programs Series (1.0 linear feet) includes theatrical programs, concert programs, and lectures and memorials that Jessye attended but did not actively participate in. These items are alphabetically organized by production title.
The Eva Jessye Clippings (0.75 linear feet) series contains newspaper and magazine clipping and reviews about Jessye and her professional activities. These files consist of many duplicate items, fragile materials, and un-cited newspaper fragments.
The Black History Clippings Series (2.0 linear feet) consists of collected newspaper and magazine clippings concerning Black history and biographical and promotional information on Black artists and historical figures. The folders are grouped into four subseries: Concert Singers and Instrumentalists, Composers and Arrangers, Chorus and Ensembles, and Writers, Poets, Dancers, Actors. Each subseries is ordered alphabetically. Clipping subjects include opera stars Jessye Norman and Leontyne Price, actor Paul Robeson, pianist Andre Watts, composer William Grant Still, the ensemble Fisk Jubilee Singers, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, blues and pop music artist such as Bessie Smith, Chuck Berry, W. C. Handy, The Mills Brothers, The Supremes, Billie Holiday, and many other actors, bandleaders, night club entertainers, dance ensembles, and cultural leaders.
The Photograph series (3.0 linear feet and one oversize box) contains photographs of Jessye and her friends and family, many pictures of various Eva Jessye Choirs, scene shots and individual publicity shots for various Porgy and Bess casts, and publicity shots of performing artists, Black cultural leaders and political leaders. This collection is an excellent visual survey of African American cultural history. This series is derived from a number of binders and is organized by photo content and binder. The binder provenance is recorded on the folder when known. Each folder is grouped into one of eight subseries: Eva Jessye; The Eva Jessye Choir; Choirs, Dance and Theatrical Groups; Scene Shots; Clippings; Programs; Miscellaneous; Porgy and Bess; and Black History. The Black History subseries collects many photographs, generally 8x10, of African American social activists and people in the arts. Some of those included are Alvin Ailey, Eddie Anderson, Marian Anderson, James Baldwin, Howlin' Wolf, Ray Charles, Gloria Davy, Katherine Dunham, Lionel Hampton, The Nicolas Brothers, Leontyne Price, Billy Taylor, and Stevie Wonder.
The Awards and Certificates series (1 outsized box) collects documents honoring Jessye including the award for Kansas Ambassador of the Arts, honorary proclamations from California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Taft, Oklahoma, and Washington DC. Among other tributes, Jessye also received honors from Howard University and Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and honorary doctorates from the University of Michigan School of Music, Eastern Michigan University and Glassboro State College.