Friday, October 29, 2010

Birthday Wishes to Two Musical Pioneers and Amistad Donors

The Amistad Research Center would like to send birthday wishes to two individuals whose musical careers are well documented in the Center's archival collections -- Harold Battiste and Camilla Williams.

Harold Battiste
Composer, musician, educator, and record producer Harold R. Battiste celebrated his 79th birthday on October 28. In recognition of his accomplishments, the day was declared Harold Battiste Day by the City of New Orleans in 1998. As a jazz musician and record producer Mr. Battiste worked with such musicians as Sam Cooke, Sonny and Cher, Tom Waits, and Dr. John. He founded the first African American-owned record company, All for One (AFO) Records, in 1961. The label produced Barbara George’s hit record “I Know” as well as works by Ellis Marsalis, James Black, Melvin Lastie, Edward Blackwell, Alvin Batiste, and others. In 1989, Mr. Battiste joined Ellis Marsalis as part of the Jazz Studies faculty at the University of New Orleans.

Camilla Williams in the title role
for Madama Butterfly
Camilla Williams, a lyric soprano, has been credited with being the first African American female to hold a regular position with a leading United States opera company. Williams’ accolades are as follows: two-time winner of the Marian Anderson Award; prominent exponent of the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and protégé of the creator or the role, Geraldine Farrar; “Bess” in the first complete phonographic recording of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; performer of the title role in the Vienna premiere of Menotti’s Saint of Bleeker Street; recitalist; cultural ambassadress for the U.S. State Department; and college teacher of voice. Ms. Williams celebrated her 91st birthday on October 18.

The Amistad Research Center is honored to house the personal papers of Mr. Battiste and Ms. Williams and thanks them for allowing the Center to make both collections available to researchers worldwide.

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Images from the Harold R. Battiste Papers and the Camilla Williams Papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Grant Helps Center Preserve Its Audiovisual Holdings

The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce that it has received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to identify and appraise the Center's substantial audiovisual holdings. To aid in this goal, Amistad welcomes our newest staff member, Brenda Flora, who brings extensive knowledge and experience working with audiovisual collections at the British Universities Film and Video Council's Newsfilm Online Project and the BBC, as well as library/archival experience from Tulane University's Recover Center and the University of New Orleans. She is a member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, the Louisiana Archives and Manuscripts Association, and the Greater New Orleans Archivists.  

Approximately one quarter of the Center's archival collections contain some form of sound and/or moving image recordings. This project will allow for unprecedented access to these materials at Amistad, which are of increasing interest to the public, while at increasing risk due to technical obselesnce and physical deterioration as outlined in a recent publication sponsored by the Library of Congress.

Amistad's audiovisual holdings include oral history interviews,
musical performances, and other recordings in a variety of formats.
The Center’s audiovisual collections are of great significance both regionally, nationally, and internationally. Highlights include: the Kim Lacy Rogers-Glenda Stevens Oral History Collection, which chronicles the experience of New Orleans’ leaders in the Civil Rights Movement; the Tom Dent Papers, which contain hundreds of interviews with civil rights leaders in Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as the personal narratives of those most closely affiliated with the development of the twentieth century New Orleans jazz aesthetic; the American Committee on Africa Archives and the George Houser Film Collection, which chronicle African nationalist movements and the United States’ relation with Africa; the Saddest Days Oral History Collection, which represents one of the more substantive oral history collections in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; the J. Susannah Norton Papers and the Sybil Kein Papers, which document Caribbean and Creole folklore and endangered languages in North America and the Caribbean; and the Ed Pincus Film Collection, which consists of the raw film footage shot in 1960s Mississippi in the creation of two significant civil rights movement documentaries.

The Center also houses collections with substantial field recordings, performances, and interviews with some of the country’s most notable musicians. These include the personal papers of the following: Harold Battiste, who worked with musicians such as Sam Cooke, Sonny and Cher, and Dr. John, and founded the first African American musician-owned record company, All for One (AFO) Records; operatic singer Carol Brice; Anne Wiggins Brown, the original Bess in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; William Warfield, who also gained notoriety in Porgy and Bess; Ellis Marsalis Jr., patriarch of America’s most noted jazz family; and famed composer and arranger of American gospel and spirituals Moses Hogan. Various collections of individual or family papers, such as the Robert and Lillie Mae Green Papers, include amateur film footage documenting the daily lives of middle-class African American families, which provides glimpses of social and economic factors in the lives of these families.

The NHPRC grant funds phase two of a three-phase project undertaken by Amistad to document its audiovisual holdings and the implementation of a formal preservation and reformatting program at the Center. We look forward to providing updates as we continue this project and make more of our sound and moving image materials available to researchers and the public.

Amistad's staff wishes to extend its appreciation to the NHPRC for this opportunity.
Posted by Christopher Harter

(Image provided courtesy of Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)