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Guide to the Pearl Primus Collection, 1920-1994

Abstract

Pearl Primus (1919-1994) was an African-American dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and teacher.

Collection includes materials created or collected by Primus and by others dating from circa 1920 to 1994, including correspondence, writings, legal documents, research and teaching materials, clippings, programs, printed materials, photographs, sound recordings, films, videos, and artifacts.

Descriptive Summary

Repository
American Dance Festival Archives Box 90772 Durham, North Carolina, 27708-0772 USA Phone: 919-684-6402 Fax: 919-684-5459 Email: adfarchives@americandancefestival.org
Creator
Primus, Pearl
Title
Pearl Primus collection 1920-1994
Language of Material
English
Extent
20.4 Linear Feet, 20650 Items
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the ADF Archives.

Collection Overview

Collection includes materials created or collected by Primus and by others dating from circa 1920 to 1994, including correspondence, writings, legal documents, research and teaching materials, clippings, programs, printed materials, photographs, sound recordings, films, videos, and artifacts.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Patrons must sign the Acknowledgement of Legal Responsibility and Privacy Rights form before using this collection.

Collection is open for research.

In off-site storage; 48 hours advance notice is required for use.

Access to film, videotapes, or audiotapes in this collection requires the use of reference copies. To arrange for the creation of reference copies, if none exist, please contact American Dance Festival Archives.

warning Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Contents of the Collection

Pearl Primus, 1937-1938, 1947-1994 and undated

Arranged chronologically

Includes letters to Primus from family, friends, fans, and academic colleagues, and letters from Primus to company members, government officials, educators, and funding organizations, among others. Writings, project proposals, invitations, and printed materials are also present. There is extensive correspondence from 1949 documenting her experience in Africa, especially in Liberia. Other significant correspondence includes letters written in 1953 to Primus from her future husband, Percival Borde. Correspondence from the 1980s reflects Primus' professional activities as a faculty member at SUNY-Albany, SUNY-Buffalo, and the Five College Dance Department.

.75 linear feet
Box 1
Onwin Primus-Borde, 1987
1 folder, 1 item
Box 1
Percival Borde, 1956, 1962-1964
1 folder
Box 1

Arranged alphabetically

Contains materials created or collected by Primus (and occasionally Borde) including correspondence, printed materials, notes, writings, and other materials. Prevalent are materials from Primus' second trip to Africa, including receipts, expense lists, notes, writings, poetry, project proposals, and memorabilia. Borde's activities in Africa during this time are documented by similar materials, as well as diaries, travel documents, and permits. Materials related to Primus' academic career, from high school student to college professor, are in the Notebooks and Notes subject folders. Course materials primarily date to Primus' tenure on the faculty of the Five College Dance Department and at SUNY-Buffalo's Cora P. Maloney College. Primus' daily life is characterized by personal notes, schedules, itineraries, and six diaries, which contain Primus' daily "to do" lists as well as shopping and correspondence lists and some financial information. Occasionally they contain brief musings or phrases of poetry she composed.

Africa, 1949, 1960 and undated
Box 1
Africa, Liberia: Invitations and Programs, Presidential Events, 1949, 1952
Box OS1
Africa, Liberia: Liberian Cultural Affairs Committee, 1960
Box 1
Africa, Nigeria: International Club Brochure, 1949
Box 1
Africa, Printed Materials: The Liberian Age (11 issues), 1948-1949
Box OS1
Africa, Printed Materials: New York Times supplement on Liberia, July 25, 1965
Box OS1
Africa, Printed Materials: New York Times Magazine, March 14, 1965
Box OS1
Africa, Printed Materials: Sierra Leone Trade Industry & Travel, 1959
Box OS1
Africa, Printed Materials: Weekend Telegraph (U.K.), 1964
Box OS1
Alma John Workshops, 1984
Box 1
American Dance Festival (Black Tradition in American Modern Dance project), 1988
Box 1
Artwork by Primus, circa 1955
Box OS3
Artwork of Primus (illegible signature), undated
Box OS3
Awards and Certificates, circa 1935, 1970-1988
Box 1
Awards and Certificates, 1985
Box OS2
Barbados Dance Theatre and Five College Dance Department Exchange, 1985-1988
Box 1
Barbados Workshops, 1986-1988
Box 1
Biographical Information and Resumes, 1968-1990 and undated
Box 1
Borde, Onwin: Awards and Certificates, 1980
Box 1
Borde, Percival: Dorothea Towles, 1962
Box 1
Borde, Percival: Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society, 1962
Box OS1
Borde, Percival: Writings, circa 1962
Box 1
Borde, Percival: Writings, Diaries, 1962
Box OS1
Children's Theatre Company, 1984
Box 1
Contact Information (address lists and business cards), undated
Box 1
Contact Information (address lists), undated
Box OS1
Contracts and Correspondence, Lordly and Dame, 1986-1989
Box OS1
Course Materials, circa 1963-1987
Box 1
Course Materials: Student Papers, 1988, 1992
Box 1
Course Materials: Syllabi, 1984-1994
Box 1
Course Materials: Syllabus, 1985
Box OS1
Course Materials: Test and Lecture Notes, 1987, 1991 and undated
Box 1
The Dance Project (WNET), 1987-1990
Box 1
Everybody's Creative Arts Center (CitiCentre Dance Theatre), 1984-1986
Box 1
Restricted: Greeting card by Primus, 1934
Box 5
Reference Copy: Greeting card by Primus, 1934
Box 1
Howard University Residency, 1992
Box 1
Hunter College Employment, 1969-1973
Box 1
Italy, Oct.-Dec. 1956
Box 1
Kwanzaa Speech Notes, 1986
Box 1
Kwanzaa Student Project, 1983
Box OS1
Ledger, 1963
Box 1
Legal Affairs: Contracts, 1951-1989
Box 1
Legal Documents: Eviction Proceedings, 1963, 1984
Box 1
Legal Documents: Immigration, 1937, 1957-1958
Box 1
Legal Documents: Marriage Certificate and Divorce Decrees, 1961
Box OS1
Legal Documents: Onwin Borde, 1955, 1978
Box 2
Legal Documents: Permits and Licenses, 1951, 1960-1961
Box 2
Memorabilia, 1940-1976 and undated
Box 2
Memorabilia: Postcards, undated
Box 2
Miscellaneous, 1948-1986 and undated
Box 2
National Council for Culture and Art, 1980
Box 2
National Endowment for the Arts, 1985-1994
Box 2
New York University, Fifth International Festival, 1964
Box 2
Notebook, circa 1951
Box 2
Notebooks: Africa, circa 1958-1963
Box 2
Notebook, circa 1965
Box 2
Notebook, 1977-1981
Box 2
Notebook, circa 1987-1988
Box 2
Notebook, circa 1992
Box 2
Notes: Africa, circa 1949-1960
Box 2
Notes: Africa, Bushongo and Watusi, undated
Box 2
Notes: African-American History and Heritage, undated
Box 2
Notes: African-American Women, undated
Box 2
Notes: African Art, undated
Box 2
Notes: Anthropology, undated
Box OS1
Notes: Caribbean, undated
Box 2
Notes: Choreography, Dance, circa 1950-1959
Box OS1
Notes: Choreography, Dance, undated
Box 2
Notes: Cora P. Maloney College, undated
Box 2
Notes: Dance Presentation for Children Study, undated
Box 2
Notes: First African Performing Arts Center (Konoma Kende), undated
Box 2
Notes: First African Performing Arts Center (Konoma Kende), undated
Box OS1
Notes: Personal, undated
Box OS1
Notes: Personal and Professional (2 folders), circa 1950-1980
Box 2
Pearl Primus-Percival Borde School of Dance, 1968
Box OS1
Poetry, Music, Lyrics by Primus Project Proposals: African-Caribbean-American Dance-Arts Center, circa 1955
Box OS1
Project Proposals: African-Caribbean-American Dance-Arts Center, 1957-1958
Box 2
Project Proposals: First African Dance Theatre, circa 1958
Box 2
Project Proposals: Pearl Primus Dance Language Institute, undated
Box 2
Project Proposals by Primus, 1955-1989 and undated
Box 2
Project Proposals by Others, 1987 and undated
Box 2
Publishing Correspondence, 1950-1951
Box 2
Rebekah Harkness Foundation Tour of Africa: Financial, 1961-1962
Box 2
Rebekah Harkness Foundation Tour of Africa: Primus, 1961-1962
Box 2
Rebekah Harkness Foundation Tour of Africa: Borde, 1961-1962
Box 2
Rebekah Harkness Foundation Tour of Africa: Proposal and Description, 1962 and undated
Box OS1
Receipts, 1952-1957 and undated
Box 2
Receipts: Nigeria, Dec. 1948-Apr. 1949
Box 2
Receipts: Belgian Congo, May-Aug. 1949
Box 2
Schedules and Itineraries, 1949-circa 1992 and undated
Box 2
School Essays, 1935-circa 1940 and undated
Box 2
School Notes: Biology, undated
Box 2
School Notes: Biology, Botany, 1938 and undated
Box 2
School Notes: Dance, undated
Box 2
School Notes: English Literature, undated
Box 2
School Notes: Physical Education, 1938 and undated
Box 2
School Notes: Primitive Art, 1953
Box 2
School Notes: Psychology, undated
Box 2
School Notes: Roman History, undated
Box 2
SISA (Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa), 1986-1987
Box 2
Spelman College Inauguration and Symposium, 1988
Box 2
Spiritual Baptists, Granville Williams, 1984-1988
Box 2
Symposium: The Struggle for Liberation in Southern Africa, 1983
Box 2
Travel Documents (including passports and permits), 1948-1963
Box 2
White, Josh, 1983-1984 and undated
Box 2
Writings, undated
Box 2
Writings: Africa, 1962
Box OS1
Writings: Africa, undated
Box 2
Writings: African Dance, 1963
Box 2
Writings: An Evaluation Report on Cultural Enrichment Through the Dance, 1967
Box 2
Writings: Dance, undated
Box 2
Restricted: Writings: Diary, circa 1943-1949
Box 5
Reference Copy: Writings: Diary, circa 1943-1949
Box 2
Writings: Diary, 1944
Box 3
Writings: Diary, 1949
Box 3
Restricted: Writings: Diary, circa 1956
Box 5
Reference Copy: Writings: Diary, circa 1956
Box 3
Writings: Diary, 1957
Box 3
Writings: Diary, circa 1960
Box 3
Writings: Poetry, Lyrics, and Music, undated
Box 3
Restricted: Writings: Tree Worship, 1934
Box 5
Reference Copy: Writings: Tree Worship, 1934
Box 3
Restricted: Writings: Diary by M. Hull, 1979
Box 5
Writings: By Others, 1960-1991 and undated
Box 3
Writings: By Others about Primus, 1979, 1982 and undated
Box 3
Writings: Poetry, Lyrics, and Music by Others, 1928, 1965, and undated
Box 3
Writings: Woll, Yael, English Composition notebook, 1938
Box 3

Proposal drafts are followed by drafts of chapters or sections, followed by folders devoted to illustrations, bibliographies, research materials, and correspondence. Drafts of chapters and sections are presented in the same order as the table of contents of the most complete draft of the dissertation. The identification of some materials as part of Primus' dissertation proposal is sometimes uncertain; likewise, some materials filed as a draft of a chapter of the dissertation may possibly be a draft of proposal chapters or sections.

Contains various drafts of Primus' doctoral dissertation at New York University entitled "A Study of Sculpture-Dance as a Factor in the Enculturation of the Mano People of Liberia, West Africa, Between 1948 and 1963." The final version of the dissertation is not included. Also included are photocopies of research materials and illustrations used in the dissertation. Primus began her research in Liberia during the tour sponsored by Rosenwald Foundation in 1949, continued it during a brief visit to Liberia in 1952, and continued it again from 1959 to 1963. Primus' dissertation proposal, begun in 1959, was approved in 1975. Her doctorate was awarded in 1978 upon completion of the dissertation.

Proposal Drafts, 1959, 1975 and undated
Box 3
Drafts, Chapters 1 and 2
Box 3
Drafts, Chapters 1-4, 1975
Box 3
Drafts, Foreword, Preface, Dedication
Box 3
Through the Eyes of the Investigator
Box 3
The Republic of Liberia, West Africa
Box 3
Africa
Box 3
Methodology (Chapter 3)
Box 3
Ethnography (Chapter 4)
Box 3
Dance (Chapter 4 of final dissertation)
Box 3
The Enculturation Process Among the Mano People (Chapter 5)
Box 3
When Sculpture-Danced Danced (Chapter 6)
Box 3
Implications of the Study (Chapter 7)
Box 3
Related Studies
Box 3
Drafts, sections unidentified
Box 3
Illustrations
Box 3
Bibliography
Box 3
Rosenwald Fellowship Correspondence, 1948-1960
Box 3
Dissertation-Related Correspondence, 1975-1977 and undated
Box 3
Research Materials
Box 3
Handwritten Notes and Drafts
Box 3

Arranged chronolgically in two subseries: printed materials pertaining to Primus or her family members, and printed materials collected by Primus that do not specifically mention her or her family.

Contains programs, clippings, promotional materials, reviews, publications, announcements, flyers, press releases, and other items that specifically mention Primus or her immediate family, including Percival Borde and Onwin Primus-Borde, as well as performances of students Primus advised, groups she directed, dances she choreographed, and shows she lent costumes. Also included are articles and publications that Primus authored.

Program Drafts, circa 1940-1959
Box OS1
1941-1960 (20 folders)
Box 3
1944-1985 (3 folders)
Box OS2
1961-1994 (32 folders)
Box 4

Contains printed materials that Primus collected but that do not specifically mention her or her family, including popular periodicals, newspaper clippings, programs, and brochures.

circa 1935-1994 (16 folders)
Box 4
Rat newspaper, 1968
Box OS2
Master Class poster, 1974 or 1985
Box OS3

Prints are arranged into four subseries: Portraits, Publicity, Performance, and Snapshots. Folder titles identify either the subject of the photo or the title of the dance depicted, followed by the date. When known, the photographer's name appears in parentheses.

Arranged chronologically

Primus, circa 1920
Box 6
Primus, circa 1930-1949 (2 folders)
Box 6
Primus, circa 1940-1949
Box 6
Primus (Cris Alexander), circa 1940-1945 (3 folders)
Box 6
Primus (Cris Alexander), circa 1940-1945
Box OS2
Primus (Gerda Peterich), circa 1940-1949
Box 6
Primus (Carl Van Vechten), circa 1940-1949
Box 6
Primus (photograph of painting by Robert G. Thomkins), 1950
Box 6
Primus (photograph of bust by Ben Karp), circa 1950-1959
Box 6
Primus, Percival, and Onwin Borde passport photos, circa 1961
Box 6
Primus, Afro-American Studies Department, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 1992
Box 6
Others, signed or identified, circa 1940-1959
Box 6
Others, unidentified, circa 1940-1969
Box 6

Arranged alphabetically by title of dance

Contains publicity shots of Primus (sometimes with her company or family), depicting scenes from dance performances, taken by professional photographers for promotional purposes.

African Ceremonial (Gerda Peterich), circa 1944 (2 folders)
Box 6
Afro-Haitian Play Dance (Gerda Peterich), circa 1940-1949
Box 6
Hard Times Blues, 1940
Box OS2
Dance of the Watusi, 1951
Box 6
Folk Dance, PM Daily Picture Magazine (Morris Gordon), 1944
Box 6
Folk Dance (Gerda Peterich), circa 1944
Box 6
Folk Dance (Jay Florian Mitchell), circa 1950-1959
Box 6
Folk Dance (Gerda Peterich), 1950-1959
Box 6
Negro Speaks of Rivers, circa 1940-1949 (3 folders)
Box 6
Negro Speaks of Rivers, circa 1940-1949
Box OS2
Negro Speaks of Rivers (Gerda Peterich), circa 1940-1949 (2 folders)
Box 6
Spirituals, circa 1940-1949
Box 6
Unidentified Dances, circa 1940-1959 (9 folders)
Box 7
Unidentified Dances (Barbara Morgan), circa 1950-1959
Box 7
Unidentified Dances, with Joe Nash (Gerda Peterich), circa 1947
Box 7

Arranged chronologically

Contains publicity shots of Primus company members in performance and in rehearsal.

Primus Company, circa 1940-1949 (2 folders)
Box 7
Primus Company (Barry), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company (Barry), circa 1940-1949
Box OS2
Primus Company (Scurlock Studio), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company, Caribbean Conga (Gjon Mili), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company, Caribbean Conga (Jay Florian Mitchell), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company, Caribbean Conga (Jay Florian Mitchell), circa 1940-1949
Box OS2
Primus Company, Four Male Dancers (Marvin Smith), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company, Rehearsal (Gazelle Szabo), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company with Joe Nash and Jacqueline Hairston (Marvin Smith), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Primus Company, donkey costume (Jay Florian Mitchell), circa 1950-1955
Box 7
Primus Company, circa 1950-1959
Box 7

Arranged chronologically

Contains publicity shots taken at public appearances and events.

Radio appearance, circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Radio appearance, NBC (Dennis Stock), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Radio appearance, WHN (Irving Kaufman), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Saks Fifth Avenue Store Window (Worsinger), circa 1940-1949
Box 7
Appearances, circa 1940-1989
Box 7
War Effort, with CIO member/veterans, circa 1942-1944
Box 7
Cafe Society, circa 1943
Box 7
Emperor Jones, 1947
Box 7
Packing for Africa (Rosenwald Grant) (Rosalie Gwathmey), 1949
Box 7
Signing Autographs (Beckman), 1947
Box 7
Belgian Congo, 1949
Box 7
Primus with Family (Rosalie Gwathmey), 1949
Box 7
Women Dancers in Nigeria, 1949
Box 7
Jacob's Pillow, 1950
Box 7
Primus with Percival Borde, circa 1950-1959
Box 7
Primus with Francis Day, Jack Hylton reading program of Primus' royal performance, Oct. 29, 1951
Box 7
Appearance in U.K., (Keystone Press Agency), Oct. 1951
Box 7
Appearance In U.K (Daily Express), circa 1951
Box 7
Israeli tour (Hans Kaufmann), Jan. 1952
Box 7
Trieste, Italy, Oct.-Nov. 1956
Box 7
Primus with Percival Borde and Curtis J. Perkins (R. Walker), circa 1956
Box 7
Appearance with Onwin Borde, circa 1960
Box 7
Appearance, circa 1960-1969
Box 7
Appearance at Detroit Institute of the Arts, circa 1960-1969
Box 7
Primus with Percival Borde and Nun, circa 1960-1969
Box 7
Primus teaching children, circa 1960-1969
Box OS2
Primus with Nigerian Cultural Leaders, circa 1961
Box 8
Percival Borde presenting award, circa 1962
Box 8
Percival Borde with Miss Trinidad and Tobago Independence, Sept. 1962
Box 8
Press clipping: Everyman's African Roots, Dance Magazine, Oct. 1964
Box 8
Dancing Masks of Africa Exhibit Opening, Sept. 1974
Box 8
Spelman College Repertory Workshop, Swing Low (Reeves Studios), 1976
Box 8
Primus (Sigrid Estrada), circa 1982
Box 8
Contact Magazine shoot (Stephen Long), 1984
Box 8
Lecture Demonstration at Amherst (Frank Ward), circa 1986
Box 8
American Dance Festival Master Class (Jay Anderson), 1988
Box 8
Primus with Kim Bears, circa 1988
Box 8
Lecture Demonstration (Andre Richardson), circa 1980-1989
Box 8
National Medal of Arts (Vivian Ronay), 1991
Box 8
Photographs of others, identified, circa 1940-1969
Box 8
Photographs of others, unidentified, circa 1940-1969
Box 8

Arranged chronologically

Includes photographs of Primus, her family, and her company taken by a professional photographer at live performances.

Performances, circa 1940-1979
Box 8
Prayer of Thanksgiving, Belgian Congo (A. Da Cruz), 1949
Box 8
Belgian Congo (A. Da Cruz), circa May-Aug. 1949
Box 8
Dance of Lightning, Belgian Congo (A. Da Cruz), circa May-Aug. 1949
Box 8
Jacob's Pillow, 1950
Box 8
Cleveland Performance (Bill Wingfield), circa 1950-1959
Box 8
International Festival, circa 1950-1959
Box 8
English Tour, 1951
Box 8
Primus Company, circa 1951
Box 8
Italian tour (Foto Florio), 1956
Box 8
Italian tour (E. Constantine), 1956
Box 8
Italian tour (L. de Rota), circa Oct.-Nov. 1956
Box 8
Primus with Percival Borde, NYU-TV (Irwin Gooen), 1957
Box 8
Percival Borde, circa 1960-1969
Box 8
Primus Company, circa 1960-1969
Box 8
NYU (William Simmons), 1962
Box 8
Appearance (Bro. David McAdams), June 25, 1964
Box 8
Alphonse Cimber, Primus Company drummer (E. Pen Stevens), Oct. 11, 1969
Box 8
Percival Borde, Primus Company, Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors Festival (Dan Brinzac), Aug. 20, 1979
Box 8
Percival Borde, circa 1970-1979
Box 8
Percival Borde, Impinyuza, circa 1970-1979
Box 8
Primus with Onwin Borde, circa 1970-1979
Box 8
Performance, circa 1980-1989 (3 folders)
Box 8
Unidentified Performers, circa 1980-1989
Box 8
Excerpts from an African Journey, Five College Faculty Dance Concert, 1984
Box 8
Mary François Brooks and Co., 1986
Box 8
Primus Company, undated
Box 8
Primus Company (Costas), undated
Box 8
Primus Company, Initiation, undated
Box 8
Primus Company, Bushasche, undated
Box 8

Arranged chronologically

Includes photographs taken by non-professional, unidentified photographers. The images document Primus' family and friends, as well as some performances and appearances.

Emily and Edward Primus (parents), circa 1930-1939
Box 9
Others, circa 1930-1959
Box 9
Hunter College, Friends, circa 1937
Box 9
Primus, circa 1937-1950
Box 9
Primus with Family and Friends, circa 1937-1960
Box 9
Albums, including Father and Hunter College friend, 1938-1939
Box 9
Primus' Brothers and Sisters-in-Law, circa 1940-1949
Box 9
Others, signed, 1949
Box 9
Others, unidentified, 1949, 1959-1963
Box 9
Primus in Africa, circa 1949
Box 9
Watusi (Rwanda), circa 1949
Box 9
Primus at Café Society Downtown, 1950
Box 9
Yael Woll, circa 1950-1953
Box 9
Album, circa 1952
Box 9
Trinidad, circa 1953
Box 9
Trinidad albums, circa 1953 (5 folders)
Box 9
Onwin Borde (with Primus and Percival Borde), 1955
Box 9
Africa, circa 1959-1963 (2 folders)
Box 9
Liberia, circa 1959-1963
Box 9
Onwin Borde, 1961
Box 9
Liberia, 1961
Box 9
Classes, circa 1965
Box 9
Percival Borde, Lagos, Nigeria, 1971
Box 9
Onwin Borde drumming, circa 1980-1989
Box 9
Lecture Demonstration, Emory University, Atlanta, circa 1980-1989
Box 9
Panel Discussion, circa 1980-1989
Box 9
Primus with Marilyn Middleton, circa 1980-1989
Box 9
Primus at White Plains High School, circa 1980-1989
Box 9
Shango de Ima, circa 1980-1989
Box 9
Unidentified, circa 1980-1994
Box 9
Primus at Murray and Peggy Schwartz's home, 1983
Box 9
Students, Dance Workshop, Apr. 6, 1984
Box 9
Primus with Maya Angelou and Onwin Borde, 1987
Box 10
Primus and Shepard Roderick, Barbados, circa 1987
Box 10
Primus at Murray and Peggy Schwartz's home, 1989
Box 10
Tokunaga Dance Kompany, Boston, circa 1992
Box 10

Arranged chronologically within three subseries: Publicity, Performance, and Snapshots.

None of the contact sheets in this series has its accompanying negatives. There are, however, a few contact sheets with their accompanying negatives in the Negatives series.

Primus and Company (or students), circa 1940-1949
Box 10
Primus Company Rehearsal, circa 1950-1959
Box 10
Primus, circa 1940-1949
Box 10
Primus at Jacob's Pillow, 1950
Box 10
Onwin Borde, circa 1965
Box 10
Primus with unidentified company, 1984
Box 10
Primus, circa 1950-1959
Box 10
Primus, Percival Borde, Onwin Borde, circa 1958
Box 10

Arranged chronologically within the series of Portraits, Publicity, Performance, and Snapshots. Primus' negatives from her trips to Africa are arranged in a separate, following series.

Contains some of the negatives of prints found in the Photographic Prints subseries. There are also numerous negatives of snapshots of family members with Onwin Borde, primarily during his infant and toddler years, 1955-1957. Other negatives include performances of Primus and other well-known modern dancers such as Jose Limon and Helen Tamiris at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 1950.

Primus, circa 1945
Box 10
Spirituals, circa 1945
Box 10
Primus, circa 1945-1988
Box 10
Dance of Lightning and Prayer of Thanksgiving, 1949
Box 10
Limon, Ide, Helen, Cimber, Lindquist, Rivera, Jacob's Pillow, 1950
Box 10
Dance of Lightning and The Negro Speaks of Rivers, 1950
Box 10
Primus, Jacob's Pillow, 1950
Box 10
Unidentified, circa 1930-1949
Box 10
Primus and family, 1955-1957
Box 10
Children, including Onwin Borde, circa 1955-1959
Box 10
Percival Borde and Onwin Borde, circa 1960
Box 10
Onwin Borde, circa 1960
Box 10
Onwin Borde, circa 1965
Box 10
Primus and Percival Borde, undated
Box 10

This subseries consists of negatives and transpareancies taken by Primus in Africa in 1949 and 1960-1963. They document the people, landscapes, vegetation, habitats, crafts, instruments, dance, dress, and rituals of the African tribes she visited.

The negatives in this subseries were contained in an index card box and identified by Primus according to city or subject, although they were not arranged in their current alphabetical order.

Aba (Nigeria)
Box 10
Benin (Nigeria)
Box 10
Boma (Belgian Congo)
Box 10
Bonny (Nigeria)
Box 10
Duala (Cameroon)
Box 10
Ife (Nigeria)
Box 10
Jos (Nigeria)
Box 11
Kalabar (Nigeria)
Box 11
Kano (Nigeria)
Box 11
Lagos (Nigeria)
Box 11
Missions
Box 11
Oron (Nigeria)
Box 11
Ship
Box 11
Usumbura (Burundi)
Box 11
Warri (Nigeria)
Box 11
Zaria (Nigeria)
Box 11

The negatives in this subseries were tentatively identified or categorized by ADF Archives staff and arranged alphabetically by tribe or subject.

The majority of these negatives likely date to Primus' 1949 Rosenwald Foundation grant tour.

Ashanti [?] (Ghana)
Box 11
Bakuba (Belgian Congo) (4 folders)
Box 11
Flora and Fauna
Box 11
Ife [?] (Nigeria)
Box 11
Kampo [?] (Senegal)
Box 11
Mano (Liberia) (3 folders)
Box 11
Material Culture (2 folders)
Box 11
Primus
Box 11
Watusi (Rwanda) (4 folders)
Box 11
Unidentified Children
Box 11
Unidentified People (4 folders)
Box 11

The transparencies in this subseries were tentatively identified or categorized by ADF Archives staff and arranged alphabetically by tribe or subject.

Accra (Ghana), circa 1962
Box 11
Bakuba (Belgian Congo)
Box 11

Arranged by format and then by item number, as assigned by the staff of Free to Dance.

Includes 15 reels of 8mm film, primarily containing images of Africa shot by Primus in either 1949 or 1960 to 1963. This series also contains amateur VHS footage of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre rehearsing Primus' Impinyuza and of a speech Primus presented at Howard University in 1992. Also present is an interview with Primus conducted for the Standifer Oral History Archive in 1989, as well as a 1981 feature on Primus by Schenectady PBS affiliate WMHT. Titles are transcribed from the original label on each item.

Viewing of these materials requires the use of reference copies. When a reference copy exists, it is noted in the finding aid. Originals are restricted.

Films marked with an asterisk* are also represented on Reference Copy DVD #4781 (Box 16), Preservation Copy Betacam SP #4781 (Box 13), and Preservation Copy DigiBeta #4781 (Box 13). Originals and preservation copies are restricted.

051-01-5 50' B/W Bullfight*
Box 12
051-03-5 dancing outside, in front of two doors-very light
Box 12
051-04-5 Great Wall, Donkeys, Looks like more African dancing, 1960s*
Box 12
051-05-5 Native Guitar, Street in Lagos
Box 12
051-06-5 Pearl at Jacob's Pillow
Box 12
051-07-5 Bullfight, color*
Box 12
051-08-5 50' B/W, good exposure. Probably not Africa-people coming out of buildings
Box 12
051-09-5 50' color Bullfight*
Box 12
051-10-5 looks like female African standing, then dancing in road. Full roll
Box 12
051-11-5 dancing, color. Soloist in white skirt*
Box 12
051-14-5 sheep or cow under a tree*
Box 12
051-15-5 color-very light*
Box 12
051-16-5 the road, shot from inside a car, color*
Box 12
051-17-5 date: 1958 house/hut/tent color*
Box 12
051-18-5 person standing in front of stairs*
Box 12

Videocassettes marked with an asterisk* are represented on individual reference copy DVDs (Box 16) and individual preservation copy Betacam SP videocassettes (Box 13). Originals and preservation copies are restricted.

051-12-4 Pearl Primus in Africa*
Box 13
051-13-4 Sathi Ailey Impinyuza-Sun. 10/21 TRT: 23:22 5/21/92*
Box 13
051-14-4 Luncheon at Howard University 1992*
Box 13
051-15-4 Impinyuza Rehearsal 8/7/90
Box 13
051-16-4 Dr. Pearl Primus Interviewed by James Standifer, Feb. 16, 1989
Box 13

These two tapes are represented on a single reference copy DVD (Box 16) and two individual preservation copy Betacam SP videocassettes (Box 13). Originals and preservation copies are restricted.

Pearl Primus, Mon. 4/20/81, WMHT-NY (2 videocassettes)
Box 13

Arranged by format and by identifying numbers assigned by ADF staff.

Contains 1/4-inch reel-to-reel audiotapes and audiocassettes belonging to Primus, including interviews with Primus in 1950 and 1956 and a lecture-demonstration on "Dance and Life Crisis" . This series also contains a copy of Pearl Primus' Africa, a set of three phonograph records of African stories, proverbs, and songs that Primus narrated, as well as copies of four other native music LPs. Also included are recordings of chants, drumming, and singing likely used to accompany rehearsals, or perhaps made to preserve native songs and rhythms for future study, although these are largely unidentified. Home recordings and duplicates of popular music, including Josh White, Miles Davis, Langston Hughes, and Billie Holiday, are also included.

Titles are copied from the original labels on the boxes of the sound reels and audiocassettes. Additional notes appear in brackets, including spelled-out abbreviations and uncertain readings of illegible titles.

Listening to these materials requires the use of reference copies. Sound recordings marked with an asterisk* are also represented on individual reference copy audio CDs (Box 16). Originals are restricted.

PPCAud1 Fanti + Group/Fanga*
Box 14
PPCAud2 Shango Songs*
Box 14
PPCAud3 Priorities*
Box 14
PPCAud4 Hard Times Blues 6/88
Box 14
PPCAud5 Fanga*
Box 14
PPCAud6 P. Primus Lecture Coldstream*
Box 14
PPCAud7 George Carvell, Hoffman Elementary School, Hoffman and Church St., Elmira, NY 14905
Box 14
PPCAud8 Unidentified
Box 14
PPCAud9 Unidentified
Box 14
PPCAud10 Unidentified
Box 14
PPCAud11 Aug-Sept 1955, Music and Talk-Pearl, Percy, Hada[mar?] Nul[tor?], 1st part Carr[icecon] [Sonny, Arnette]-Sept. 22/55, Belle pique, Cacoa oh Cacoa, Rock Daniel, Rattle*
Box 14
PPCAud11 Aug-Sept 1955, Music and Talk-Pearl, Percy, Hada[mar?] Nul[tor?], 1st part Carr[icecon] [Sonny, Arnette]-Sept. 22/55, Belle pique, Cacoa oh Cacoa, Rock Daniel, Rattle*
Box 14
PPCAud12 Newark 7/9/57*
Box 14
PPCAud13 Round Table Discussion, African Theater Arts, P.P. and P.B. [Pearl Primus and Percival Borde], [Ezra Koli?], P. Reynolds, W. Edwards, L. Jones, 11/2/73*
Box 14
PPCAud14 St. Marks 1/hour 5 weeks 9/23 to 10/26, Bondi + Company, Primus Guest Artist*
Box 14
PPCAud15 Records of [James and ?] with K. [Heldek?] Shango*
Box 14
PPCAud16 Unidentified*
Box 14
PPCAud17 Nights in Latin America-Rumba
Box 14
PPCAud18 Unidentified*
Box 14
PPCAud19 Jack Lathrop 1951, Pearl Primus, Conn. Coll., Aug. 1950*
Box 14
PPCAud20 Radio Interview P. Primus, Callinda Drumming, Sam and [Tiny?], Pearl Primus, 17 W. 24th Studio, Sun. April 8, 1956*
Box 14
PPCAud21 Recording of Drums and Singing By K. Ablack*
Box 14
PPCAud22 Unlabeled*

Letter from Koko to Primus identifies reel as recordings by Koko given to Primus. Original letter is in Correspondence, undated

Box 14
PPCAud23 May 56 Speed Slow, Blue Sands-Buddy Collet [Collette], June 12 56, 'Dance off Buddy Fantaloon Dance Off' Onwin Primus, 'Big Foot Mary' Drumming by Onwin, Onwin on drums 1 yr later July 1 '57 age 2 1/2*
Box 14
PPCAud24 Unidentified*
Box 14
PPCAud25 Sides 1 and 2: 321X Class 3/13/73*
Box 14
PPCAud26 Sides 1 and 2: Lecture*
Box 14
PPCAud27 Side 1: For transcript, Dance Studies; Side 2: African Dance Studies for transcription 7/9/75, Fanga*
Box 14
PPCAud28 Side 1: Explaining Talking Drum by Timi of [Cede] 8/5/73; Side 2: Blank*
Box 14
PPCAud29 Side 1: The Gay Flamingoes, Secrets of the Pan, 4 Selections; Side 2: Unidentified*
Box 14
PPCAud30 Sides 1 and 2: Spring 74 Lect[ure] at Sus Valley School*
Box 14
PPCAud31 Side 1: Praise Song 8/17/73 Osun; Side 2: Blank*
Box 14
PPCAud32 Side 1: Notes on Artifacts, BOCES Stamford NY; Side 2: Blank*
Box 14
PPCAud33 Sides 1 and 2: Others [Side 2 only on reference CD]*
Box 14
PPCAud34 Sides 1 and 2: Summer Institute in Ethnic Studies Through the Arts*
Box 14
PPCAud35 Sides 1 and 2: Festac 77 [2nd World Black and African Festival of Art and Culture, Jan. 1977]*
Box 14
PPCAud36 Side 1: Arabo's Younger Brother 8/10/75; Side 2: Lagos 1st Bata Narrative*
Box 14
PPCAud37 Side 1: 1-216 WA 107 Caribbean-137
Box 14
PPCAud38 Side 1: Discipline Bai T. Moon 8/12, Cultural Center 'in the Bush' 8/13; Side 2: Cultural Center 8/13 Lect[ure] Demo[nstration]
Box 14
PPCAud39 Sides 1 and 2: Hi Life and JuJu Music
Box 14
PPCAud40 Side 1: 8/9 5[?]-1st Part, Egon Gun-2nd part; Side 2: Egon Gun Lagos, Low Battery-8/9/75
Box 14
PPCAud41 Side 1: Italian-B and B Fall 1973 project; Side 2: Blank
Box 14
PPCAud42 Side 1: Wisconsin #1-Superior; Side 2: Superior Wisc 1971
Box 14
PPCAud43 Side 1: Why Mosquitoes Buzz
Box 14
PPCAud44 Side 1: Lect[ure] 292, 1st pt of Report, W.A., 71; Side 2: Report 1971 (cont)
Box 14
PPCAud45 Side 1: African Rhythms; Side 2: Lecture Caribbean Music-4/18/79 M101 Blank
Box 14
PPCAud46 Side 1: Paraverbal Meeting 11/3/89
Box 14
PPCAud47 Side 1: 292B Black Theatre; Side 2: 292B Africa Theatre
Box 14
PPCAud48 Side 1: Drama/Dance Nigeria Dundun Set; Side 2: Yoruba Class 8/1/73
Box 14
PPCAud49 Side 1: 5/8/74 [A Allvelty?]; Side 2: French Class
Box 14
PPCAud50 Side 1: Borroff
Box 14
PPCAud51 Unidentified
Box 14
PPCAud52 Unidentified
Box 14
PPCAud53 Side 1: Lect at Chicago [?] Forks-10/16/75; Side 2: Cheuougo Forks Lect 10/21/75
Box 14
PPCAud54 Side 1: Seminar on Report 11/22
Box 14
PPCAud55 Side 1: African Article Report 11/17; Side 2: Asleiti Conference 11/17
Box 14
PPCAud56 Side 1: PSU Lect Oregon 6/21; Side 2: Lect-P.S.U.
Box 14
PPCAud57 Sides 1 and 2: Radical Liberal Arts May 1988
Box 14
PPCAud58 Side 1: AA/Thea 137 and 207 c/w 5/8/74
Box 14
PPCAud59 Side 1: Tue Dije 8/9/73; Side 2: Tue Dije 8/9/73
Box 14
PPCAud60 Sides 1 and 2: Ron Christopher st
Box 14
PPCAud61 Side 1: Nigerian Music Examples Spirit Movement (background music for slides and skit)
Box 14
PPCAud62 Sides 1 and 2: Langston Hughes/Miles Davis/Billie Holiday
Box 14
PPCAud63 Sides 1 and 2: Billie Holiday
Box 14
PPCAud64 Pearl Primus' Africa*
Box 15
PPCAud65 The Talking Drums*
Box 15
PPCAud66 Drums of Haiti*
Box 15
PPCAud67 Negro Folk Music of Africa and America*
Box 15
PPCAud68 African Dances and Games*
Box 15

Contains seven plaques, awarded for achievement in modern dance, anthropology, and teaching, and the 1991 Medal of Arts, awarded by President George H. W. Bush. This series also contains three female and one male ballet slippers, assumed to have belonged to Primus and her husband, Percival, and three dance costumes presumably worn by Primus. Notable is the one identifiable costume, worn by Primus during performances of The Negro Speaks of Rivers and Strange Fruit in the mid-1940s.

Costumes (Box 18) are restricted.

Appreciation presented by African Heritage Class and African-American Heritage Dance Club, 1974
Box 17
Outstanding Pioneer Award presented by Audelco, 1977
Box 17
Ernest Melby Award presented by NYU Alumni Association, 1986
Box 17
Honorary Citizen of Atlanta, 1989
Box 17
Distinguished Achievement Award presented by Association of Black Anthropologists, 1991
Box 17
National Medal of Arts, 1991
Box 17
Olaudah Equiano Award of Excellence, University of Utah, 1994
Box 17
Ballet shoes (three women's and one men's)
Box 17
Brown woven circle
Box 17
P. Borde name Tag
Box 17
Rosary
Box 17
Woodblock stamp of image from African Ceremonial
Box 17
Wooden comb
Box 17
Restricted: Black striped skirt with pink trim, from Negro Speaks of Rivers and Strange Fruit
Box 18
Restricted: Blue and purple velvet dress with leaves
Box 18
Restricted: Purple dress
Box 18

Historical Note

Pearl Primus (1919-1994) was an African-American dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and teacher. She was born in Trinidad in 1919 and raised in New York City, where she attended Hunter High School from 1933 to 1937. Primus received her BA in biology from Hunter College in 1940, where she had been preparing for a career in medicine. Her career goals changed, however, when she began dancing with the New Dance Group, an integrated, politically progressive dance collective. Primus made her professional dance debut in New York City in 1943. She began performing at the Café Society, an integrated nightclub, and in 1944 she gave her first solo recital, performing to poetry and the music of folksinger Josh White. Later that year she traveled the American South, where she worked as a cotton-picker in order to learn more about the plight of African-Americans in the region, an experience that later inspired several dances.

In 1946 Primus took graduate classes in education at Columbia University and performed professionally with her own company and with the New York revival of Showboat and the Chicago Civic Opera production of The Emperor Jones. In 1949, Primus traveled to Africa on a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. She lived with tribes in Nigeria and the Belgian Congo, among others, observing and recording African dances, ceremonies, and other cultural activities and aspects of society.

In August 1950 Primus married Yael Woll and formally enrolled at Columbia University. She toured internationally with her company and as a solo artist, performing in England for King George IV and Queen Mary in 1951, at the inauguration of Liberian President William V. S. Tubman in 1952, and with her company in Israel and France in 1952.

In early 1953 Primus separated from Woll. The following summer, Primus continued her studies of dance in Trinidad and met dancer and choreographer Percival Borde. They married in 1954, and Primus gave birth to their son, Onwin, in January 1955. Primus and Borde continued to perform and teach together until Borde's death in 1979.

Primus received her MA in educational sociology from New York University and was awarded a grant from the Rebecca Harkness Foundation to study in Africa in 1959. Upon her return to the U.S. in 1963, Primus founded the Primus-Borde School of Dance, where she developed methods of cross-cultural education through dance. Primus tested these methods in New York City elementary schools from 1965 through 1968 and published her findings for the U.S. Department of Education in 1968. Her phonograph record, Pearl Primus' Africa, was recorded to assist teachers in elementary and high schools.

In 1969, while pursuing a doctorate in anthropology at NYU, Primus was appointed professor at Hunter College. In asserting that dance was an international language, Primus became the first NYU student to use dance to fulfill the language requirement. After completing her dissertation on the use of sculpture to acculturate children in the Mano tribe of Liberia, Primus received her PhD in anthropology in 1978. She began the Pearl Primus Dance Language Institute to promote her blending of African-American, Caribbean, and African influences with modern dance and ballet techniques. Percival Borde died on August 31, 1979 in New York.

Primus was appointed director of the Cora P. Maloney College at State University of New York-Buffalo in 1982, where she taught for two years. From 1984 to 1990, Primus served as a professor of ethnic studies and artist-in-residence at the Five College Consortium in Massachusetts. In the following years, Primus was in residency at Howard University, taught at NYU, and worked towards the founding of the Pearl Primus Dance Arts Foundation.

Primus received many awards, including a Star of Africa decoration from the Liberian government and the Scroll of Honor from the National Council of Negro Women. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush awarded Primus the National Medal of Arts for "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States." Primus' other awards include the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of American Anthropologists in 1985, an honorary doctorate from Spelman College in 1988, the American Dance Festival's first Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Chair for Distinguished Teaching in 1991 and, posthumously, the American Dance Festival/Scripps Award for Lifetime Achievement in Choreography. Primus died in New Rochelle, NY, in 1994.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Pearl Primus Collection, American Dance Festival Archives.

Provenance

The Pearl Primus Collection was received by the American Dance Festival Archives as gifts in 2000.

Processing Information

Processed by American Dance Festival Archives Staff, October 2004

Encoded by Dean Jeffrey, November 2007

Accessions were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.