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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 427

Wole Soyinka papers,

Papers of Nigerian author and humanitarian Wole Soyinka, including compositions, correspondence, and records of his teaching and human rights activities.


  • 1966-1996.

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


1 collection (24 linear feet (16 boxes))

This collection of Wole Soyinka's personal papers includes manuscripts and typescripts of his compositions, including the "Prison Diary" (handwritten notes penned between the lines of printed books while he was incarcerated), financial papers, correspondence and other materials concerning his work with the Union of Writers of the African Peoples (UWAP), and administrative correspondence and materials from his tenure as the Head of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife.

The collection also contains personal and professional correspondence, including the many greetings sent to congratulate him on his 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature. Correspondence regarding his compositions includes letters to and from publishers, copyright permissions, and correspondence concerning translations. Correspondents include American scholar and colleague Henry Louis Gates and London publisher Rex Collings. Soyinka has also participated in many United Nations activities regarding African development and child welfare, principally with UNESCO and UNICEF. The collection contains correspondence exhibiting Soyinka's involvement with humanitarian causes, including campaigns on behalf of writers suffering political persecution, principally Ken Saro-Wiwa, Tai Solarin, and Kofi Awoonor.

The collection also contains correspondence and other materials (programs/playbills, reviews, posters, etc.) related to theatrical productions of Wole Soyinka's plays, arranged alphabetically by title of play.

Biographical materials include clippings and other materials about Wole Soyinka and his life, such as biographical statements for inclusion in directories. There is also a small amount of correspondence related to Wole Soyinka's personal family life.

Biographical / Historical

Wole Soyinka was born in Nigeria in 1934 and educated at the University College, Ibadan (later the University of Ibadan) from 1952-54 and the University of Leeds (B.A., 1957). While in England, he served as a playreader at the Royal Court Theatre. Returning to the newly independent Nigeria in 1960, he held teaching appointments at the University of Ife, Ibadan (1962-63), and the University of Lagos (1965-67). Professor Soyinka was Head of the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan from 1969 to 1972 and Head of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife from 1975 to 1985. During the Nigerian civil war, he was imprisoned by the military government and served two years before being released in 1969. He has held teaching posts as a visiting lecturer at many universities in the United States, most recently as a professor in African American Studies at Emory University.

His many plays include The Lion and the jewel, A Dance of the forests, and Death and the king's horseman. He is also a noted novelist , memoirist , essayist, and poet. He has been involved in international literary movements (Union of Writers of the African Peoples [UWAP] ) as well as global humanitarian efforts (Amnesty International, UNESCO), and is much in demand as a lecturer and speaker, known for his passionate commitment to civil liberty in his own country and around the world. In 1986, Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


The collection is organized into nine series:
  1. I. Compositions
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. ___II-A. By correspondent
  4. ___II.-B. Nobel Prize greetings
  5. ___II-C. Ledgers
  6. III. Union of Writers of African Peoples (UWAP) records
  7. IV. University of Ife records
  8. V. Production files
  9. VI. Financial records
  10. VII. Subject files
  11. VIII. Biographical material
  12. IX. Audio-visual material

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

2004MT-114. Purchased from Wole Soyinka with the Amy Lowell fund, Harvard Theatre Collection funds, and funds from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the President's Office; received 1995.

Processing Information

Processed by: Susan Radovsky and Beth Carroll-Horrocks, with assistance from Maggie Lehrman.
Link to catalog
Soyinka, Wole. Wole Soyinka papers, 1966-1996: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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