Countee Cullen-Harold Jackman memorial collection
Scope and contents
The Cullen Jackman Memorial Collection (1881-1995) documents the artistic and creative nature of those of African descent.One interesting feature of this collection is the large number of original manuscripts, poetry and correspondence Harold Jackman managed to obtain. There are such jewels as an original handwritten poem by noted poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar along with an original draft of Giovionni's Room by literary great, James Baldwin. They knew Mr. Jackman throughout Harlem and the artistic world of African Americans where he maintained contact with such noted personalities and scholars as Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, W.C. Handy, Arna Bontemps and most certainly Countee Cullen. The collection contains many of the letters and postcards Harold Jackman received from his colleagues and friends.
The largest series contained in the Cullen Jackman Memorial Collection is the Cultural Productions series. This series is composed of items such as playbills, broadsides and news clippings that document artistic expressions of African Americans, predominately from the 1930's to the late 1950's. There are autographed items by several premier performers in their respective fields. The coverage of the material spans from theatrical and operatic play bills to dance performances and announcements of art exhibits. Here are found autographed playbills from the legendary Marian Anderson, articles on Bill "Mr. Bojangles" Robinson and even a picture program of "Gone With the Wind."
Carl Van Vechten, a noted photographer and collector who claimed a prominent position within the African-American community of celebrities contributed a wealth of photographs to the collection. Most of the people photographed were those influential African Americans who found their way into New York City. There are numerous portraits of people such as Alvin Ailey, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Josephine Baker. The photographs are compiled in two sub series; one being the Carl Van Vechten photographs and the other being publicity shots and film stills by several studios and artists.
Another valuable asset to the Cullen Jackman Memorial Collection is the sheet music representing more than sixty-four years of copyrighted and dated material. There are several of the classics from folk music as well as pieces that were unpublished and handwritten. Coordinating with the rest of the collection, such music and literary legends like W.C. Handy, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen contributed a significant amount with tunes like "East St. Louis," "To a Brown Girl Dead," and an entire musical, Simply Heavenly, where several scores are included. In this group there is also the Negro National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing”, as well as several famous folk tunes by Pete Seeger like "If I Had a Hammer" (translated into several languages).
A selection of more than ninety audio tapes create an important portion of this collection. Dating between the late 1960's and the 1980's, the cassettes record numerous noted scholars, personalities and conferences. Famous elders such as Pigmeat Markham, Eubie Blake and Butterfly McQueen have been preserved by this collection along with such scholars as Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Amiri Baraka. To illustrate the diversity of these tapes there are recordings of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young, representing the political arena. Finally there are several interviews of Ms. Ivie Jackman, the sister of Harold Jackman and the founder of the Harold Jackman Memorial Committee.
The last body of materials are periodicals that range from popular and scholarly journals to newsletters. While a large portion of the periodicals’ content focuses on the arts, there are several sources that cover topics of a more political or historical nature such as The Crisis, The Black Man and The Journal of African History. Periodicals such as Fire serve as primary documentation into the literary and artistic edges of the Harlem Renaissance. There are various newsletters from many artistic organizations like "The Black Theatre Alliance Newsletter" and several bulletins from the Historical Black Colleges and Universities as well as from other noted universities. More recent and popular magazines included are Ebony and Jet Magazine.
- Harold Jackman Memorial Committee (Organization)
In 1918, Harold Jackman and Countee Cullen met when they both attended DeWitt Clinton High School, a predominately white, all boys school in New York City. At school, Harold and Countee became the best of friends and would remain so for the rest of their lives. During high school, Countee Cullen began to write poetry. One of his poems, "I Have a Rendezvous with Life", won first prize in a citywide poetry contest sponsored by the Empire Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1922, Cullen graduated and began classes at New York University. While he was a student there, he continued to develop his poetry and by 1925 he published a book of poems entitled,Color. In 1925, he also graduated Phi Beta Kappa from NYU. Cullen continued his studies at Harvard receiving a Master of Arts degree in 1926. By the end of the year he was assistant editor of Opportunity magazine and had a column called "The Dark Tower.” In 1927, Cullen produced The Ballad of the Brown Girl and Copper Sun. In the social event of the decade, Countee Cullen married Nina Yolanda DuBois, W. E. B. DuBois' daughter, in 1928. In the same year, Cullen won a Guggenheim Fellowship to write and study at the Sorbonne in Paris. Unfortunately, Yolanda was not able to be with him in Paris. This and other things would lead to their divorce in 1930. However, his two-year stay in France produced The Black Christ. Though he received other offers of a professorship, upon his return to New York, Countee Cullen began working as a public school teacher. During this time he produced a novel, One Way to Heaven, in 1932 and composed The Medea and Other Poems in 1935. In 1940, Cullen married the sister of a friend, Ida Roberson. In the same year his first children's book came out, The Lost Zoo. This was followed by My Lives and How I Lost Them (1942), supposedly told to Cullen by his cat, Christopher. Countee Cullen died in 1946 just as he completed a retrospective of his work entitled, On These I Stand. It was published in 1947.
Harold Jackman was a constant source of support not only to Countee Cullen, but to other friends in the literary and art world as well. He encouraged his artistic friends and helped them make connections with those who could further their careers. Jackman was also a great collector. He collected programs from productions, first editions, printers' proofs, and drafts of works from his friends. Early on he helped Carl Van Vechten, a New York music critic, author and friend of the Harlem Renaissance movement collect material. Van Vechten would use some of this material in his book, Nigger Heaven. Van Vechten donated this and other material to Yale for a collection to be named in memory of James Weldon Johnson. Van Vechten, Jackman and many others continued to add to this collection over the years. In the early 1940s a friend of Jackman asked Harold when he was going to start a project with a Jackman by-line for a change. In 1942, Jackman made his first donation to what would soon become the Harold Jackman Collection of Contemporary Negro Life, housed at Atlanta University. In 1946, after Countee Cullen's death, Harold Jackman had the collection's name changed to the Countee Cullen Memorial Collection. He and his friends continued to add to the collection and often material would be autographed by authors and performers to Harold Jackman, or more specifically to the Countee Cullen Memorial Collection. Jackman continued to add to the collection until his death in 1961.
After the death of Harold Jackman, his sister, Ivie Jackman and some friends formed the Harold Jackman Memorial Committee to carry on his work with the collection. The Committee continued to add large quantities of material to the collection until the death of Ivie Jackman in 1983. Individuals continue to donate material to the Collection. While the Harold Jackman Memorial Committee has broken up and the leadership is gone, this is a living collection and anyone interested in documenting African Americans in the Arts can add to it.
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Language of Materials
The Atlanta University Center/Robert W. Woodruff library acknowledges the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in its efforts to process a number of its major Archival Collections. More specifically, the Foundation was requested to support the processing of the Countee Cullen/Harold Jackman Memorial Collection and the Atlanta University Archives. These are two of our most prominent collections. Without the support provided by the Mellon Foundation grant, what has been accomplished would have been impossible. The significance of the Mellon grant is the fact that it provided the undergirding and the development of the infrastructure needed to make the project a success.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced an award on May 24, 1994 to the Atlanta University Center/Robert W. Woodruff Library for the Department of Archives and Special Collections to process collections on the lives and culture of prominent African American individuals and institutions. The Countee Cullen/Harold Jackman Memorial Collection represents one group of papers chosen for this project. The staff wishes to acknowledge with much appreciation the NEH award and takes great pleasure in presenting the Cullen/Jackman Collection to the community of scholars for review and study.
The project was also in large part made possible by the support and dedication of Dr. Prince Rivers, former Interim Director, who wrote and submitted the proposal to the NEH for funding. The processing of the Cullen/Jackman Collection was completed by a team of Assistant Archivists, Jill Swiecichowski and Dawn Wright, who worked tirelessly in this effort. The staff is also appreciative to Ms. Bernice Ray, Director of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, for her support toward the completion of this project.
Wilson N. Flemister, Sr. Project Archivist
- African American arts
- African American arts
- African American jazz musicians
- African American motion picture actors and actresses
- African American poets
- African American theater
- Cullen, Countee
- Harlem Renaissance
- Hughes, Langston
- Jackman, Harold
- Jazz musicians
- McKay, Claude
- Music -- United States
- Poets, American
- Race relations -- United States
- Sheet music
- Countee Cullen-Harold Jackman Memorial Collection, 1881-1995
- Finding aid prepared by Wilson N. Flemister, Sr. , 1996 April 4.
- 1996 April 4
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- Language of description note