Eileen Southern personal archive
- Southern, Eileen (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Extent1.66 cubic feet (1 record carton, 1 extra-wide document box, 1 half-document box)
Also incorporated in the collection are writings and publications by Southern. Of particular note are two pieces that discuss Southern’s experiences at Harvard. Southern’s contributing piece, "A Pioneer: Black and Female, from Varieties of Black Experience at Harvard," in which Southern discusses the difficulties, of executing her duties during her tenure, primarily the prevalent racism and sexism. In “The Eileen Southern Report for 1976,” Southern notes the lack of institutional community support for the Department of Afro-American Studies. Other publications include four volumes of The Black Perspective in Music, report and summary documentation for the National Endowment of the Humanities grant funded research project, Afro-American Traditions in Song, Sermon, Tale, and Dance: An Annotated Bibliography, and "An Early Black Concert Company: The Hyers Sisters Combination," among others. In addition, lecture notes from Southern’s Music 206 course at Harvard, and documentation of academic and professional accomplishments, consisting of Southern’s collegiate grade reports, curriculum vitae, and list of professional activities are included.
Biographical Note on Eileen Southern
Southern was born on February 19, 1920 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Walter Wade and Lilla (Gibson) Jackson. Southern grew up in the Northern Midwest, spending her childhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Chicago, Illinois. At age twelve, Southern preformed her first full length piano recital, and made her concert debut with the Chicago Musical College symphony orchestra at Orchestra Hall in 1938 at the age of 18.
Southern received her Bachelor of Arts in 1940, and a Master of Arts in 1941 in Music History from the University of Chicago. Challenged by the discrimination of segregation in higher education organizations, Southern moved south, eventually securing positions as a lecturer and professor at Prairie View University and Southern University, historically black institutions. In 1954, Southern enrolled at New York University, earning her Doctorate degree in Musicology in 1961.
In 1960, Southern joined the faculty of Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY), as an instructor in the Department of Music, and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1964. In 1968, Southern joined the faculty at York College, CUNY, as an Associate Professor, and aided in the creation of the university’s music department. During her tenure at York College in 1971, Southern wrote The Music of Black Americans: A History, which is considered her core scholarly contribution on, and one of the authoritative texts of, African-American musicology.
Southern joined Harvard University in 1974 as a lecturer for the Afro-American Studies Department. In 1975, Southern was appointed a joint professorship in Afro-American Studies and Music Departments, becoming the first African-American woman to achieve full professorship with tenure. During Southern’s time at Harvard, she taught courses on African-American and Renaissance music, and was also an advocate for the advancement and recognition of the Afro-American Studies Department. As Department Chair from 1976 until 1979, Southern spearheaded the reorganization, expansion, and increased quality of the department’s curriculum, and successfully pushed for inclusion of the Department’s courses in the General Education program. Southern also oversaw the establishment of the Department newsletter, Nimba, and developed lecture series, inviting scholars specializing in various aspects of African-American studies.
Southern was an active member of the Harvard faculty community throughout her time at the university. She was a member of the Advisory Board for the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute in Afro-American Research, the General Education Committee, and was elected to the Shop Club (now the Harvard Faculty Club). In 1979, Southern received a prestigious National Endowment of Humanities grant to fund the research for her co-authored work, African-American Traditions in Song, Sermon, Tale and Dance, 1600s-1920: An Annotated Bibliography of Literature, Collections, and Artworks. In addition to her many roles in academia, Southern also dedicated her research to, and wrote numerous articles on, the historical contributions of African-American music and musicians.
In 1987, Southern retired from Harvard as Professor Emeritus and returned to St. Albans, New York, where she had lived during her time at the City University of New York. Her contributions and championing of African-American musicology earned her special recognition, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 from the Society of American Music and a National Humanities Medal in 2001. Southern died in Port Charlotte, Florida in 2002 at the age of 82.
Series in the collection
- Correspondence files, 1959-1993 and undated
- Personal records, 1936-1988
- Talks and lectures, 1967-1987 and undated
- Music 206 teaching materials, 1981-1985
- Writings, 1968-1992, and undated
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Southern, Eileen. Eileen Southern personal archive, 1936-1993 : an inventory
- Harvard University Archives
- March 31, 2017
- Description rules
- Language of description
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository
Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA