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Guide to the William Grant Still Papers, 1877-1992

Collection Overview

The William Grant Still Papers, 1877-1992, contain chiefly photocopies of music, writings, correspondence, diaries, pictures, printed material, clippings, and recordings, which primarily document his work as a composer. The collection relates to the historical and critical study of his music, as well as being a valuable source of arrangements for performances. Still's music gained recognition due to his ability to compose classical music which both reflected distinctive African-American as well as African influences. In addition, materials (primarily writings and librettos), created by Verna Arvey, Still's second wife, also form an integral part of the collection.

A substantial portion of the collection is comprised of music in manuscript and printed formats as well as in recorded formats, and is contained in the Music series and Recordings series. The collection does not contain all the music Still composed, however it does contain a substantial number of his works and can adequately support the research of Still's compositions. The various genres or mediums in which Still worked, including symphonies, operas, spirituals, songs, and chamber music are represented in the collection. Conductors' scores and published arrangements are included. Among the various publishers represented are Charles Pace and W.C. Handy Company and the J. Fischer and Brothers. Originals from these companies are present. Countee Cullen, Verna Arvey, Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, and Katherine Garrison Chapin are represented among those who wrote librettos or texts for Still's arrangements. Recordings for some of Still's works are available in compact disc, LP, and audio cassette formats. Included in the recordings are performances by Louis Kaufman, Peter Christ, Videmus, the William Grant Still Music Performing Arts Society, the Denver Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, and other individual artists and orchestras.

Insofar as documenting Still's professional life, the diaries, writings, and correspondence are less complete than the music. Since gaps are evident within the diaries and correspondence, these materials do not provide a full and detailed understanding of Still's career development. However, some information pertaining to his work as well as his personal life is available. The Writings series contains several articles by Still as well as biographical and critical works about Still and his music. This series also contains writings by Verna Arvey and Judith Anne Still. An autographed copy of Arvey's In One Lifetime is included. The Correspondence series includes letters between Still and Alain Locke as well as Still and Charles Burch. Within these exchanges, there is some discussion and criticism of Still's compositions, reflections on the problems confronting African-American musicians in the 1930s, and a discussion of the possibility of Still teaching at Howard University. Correspondence between Arvey and Carl Van Vechten is also included. The diaries of both Still and Verna Arvey primarily record daily activities. However, Still's diary entries from 1930 contain reflections on his faith and spirituality, his music, and his first marriage to Grace Bundy. Within the Printed Materials and Clippings series are programs and newspaper articles, many of which are originals, that document the performances and the wide acceptance of Still's music.

The Scrapbooks series primarily contain Verna Arvey's collection of clippings which document political and social events between the 1940s and the early 1970s. These clippings demonstrate Verna Arvey's strong interest in the anti-Communist movements of the mid-twentieth century, primarily Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations. The contents of these scrapbooks do not directly relate to William Grant Still's music. To a lesser extent the scrapbooks contain clippings pertaining to race and the status of African-Americans in the United States.

Descriptive Summary

Title
William Grant Still papers 1877-1992
Creator
Still, William Grant, 1895-1978
Extent
12.0 Linear Feet, circa 2,250 Items
Repository
Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Language
English.

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

Duplication of the materials in the William Grant Still papers is restricted.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in the William Grant Still papers have not been transferred to Duke University. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Includes photocopies of personal letters between Still and Alain Locke as well as letters between Still and Charles Burch. Correspondence between Verna Arvey and Carl Van Vechten is also included. Van Vechten was interested in photographing Still as well as acquiring Still manuscripts for the James Weldon Johnson Collection at Yale University.

Arranged chronologically.

1924, June-1982, July, undated
(3 folders)
Box 1

Contains photocopies of the diaries and daybooks of Still and Verna Arvey. Still's diary entries, especially from1930, disclose information about his relationship with his first wife Grace Bundy and family financial struggles. The diaries also provide some insights into the progression of his compositions. Arvey's five-year diaries or daybooks record her daily activities. Arvey's earlier daybooks are more complete than the copies from the 1970s.

Arranged in chronological order.

Still, Verna Arvey, 1928-1979
(5 folders)
Box 1
Still, William Grant, 1930; 1939
(2 folders)
Box 1

Photocopies of Verna Arvey's "Racial-political-historical" scrapbook. The scrapbook primarily consists of articles from the Los Angeles Herald And Express and chronicles various major political events, especially the McCarthy investigations.

Arranged chronologically.

1877-1954, Mar.
(8 folders)
Box 2
1957, May 11-1968, July 21
(8 folders)
Box 3
1968, Oct 15-1973, Jan. 23, undated
(7 folders)
Box 4

Includes programs and advertisements for various performances of William Grant Still's music. Primarily original materials with some photocopies.

Arranged in chronological order by year.

1930-1949, 1940s
Box 4
1954-1986
(8 folders)
Box 5
1987-1992, undated
(4 folders)
Box 6

Includes photocopies and originals of newspaper reviews of Still's music and performances of his works.

1926-1992, undated
(5 folders)
Box 6

Includes copies of Still and Avery's wills and other legal documents, a statement of royalties, a puzzle, and proclamations recognizing Still. Chiefly photocopies.

Arranged chronologically by year.

1936-1991, undated
Box 6
n.d
Box 7

Primarily articles by Still and Verna Arvey, as well as books by Arvey and Judith Anne Still. Also included is an article by Langston Hughes pertaining to the libretto he wrote for Troubled Island, and articles by Alain Locke. Includes original publications and photocopies, no manuscript drafts are present.

Primarily, articles and shorter works are arranged in chronological order by year and precede the books which are also arranged chronologically.

1929-1985
(6 folders)
Box 7
1986-1992, undated
(3 folders)
Box 8
1941, Choreographic Music
(2 folders)
Box 8
1984, In One Lifetime
Box 8
1990, William Grant Still: A Voice High-Sounding
(4 folders)
Box 9

Contains black and white images of Still and his family. Some of the images capture moments in Still's professional career.

Arranged in chronological order by year.

1911-1949, undated
(2 folders)
Box 9

Comprised of the following subseries: Ballets, Cantatas, Chamber Music, Operas, Orchestras, Piano, Spiritual Arrangements, Songs, and Miscellaneous. The subseries reflect the various genres of music composed by William Grant Still.

The subseries are arranged alphabetically and within each subseries the compositions are alphabetically by title. A complete list of the works within each genre has been prepared by a graduate student from the Duke University Department of Music and is in an information folder. The arrangement of the works in this collection is based upon that document, but does not follow it exactly. For further information, please consult a reference archivist. This series is comprised primarily of photocopies.

Includes the composer's notes for La Guiablesse and the arrangement and play for The Sorcerer.

D-S,1941, undated
Box 10

Contains a J. Fischer and Bro. original of And They Lynched Him on A Tree.

A,1931
Box 10

Arrangements of Still's compositions by Anthony Griggs and Thomas Smith are included.

A-W, 1936-1991, undated
(3 folders)
Box 10

Included is a signed and inscribed copy of Bayou Legend and a conductor's score for The Pillar. Librettists for the various works include Bruce Forsythe, Langston Hughes, Frank Sherwood, and Verna Arvey.

A Bayou Legend,undated(Libretto only)
Box 10
Troubled Island,1976 (Libretto by Langston Hughes)
(4 folders)
Box 10
Troubled Island,undated(Libretto only)
Box 10

Includes an original publication of Wood Notes and works by other composers which were orchestrated by Still.

C-S, 1937-1991, undated
(2 folders)
Box 11

Contains pieces primarily written for piano instrumentation.

F-S, 1916-1972
Box 11

Contains Songs of Separations, for which lyrics were written by Langston Hughes, Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, and others. Other lyricists include Kate Chapin and Verna Arvey. Also includes From the Hearts of Women,Plainchant for America,Breath of A Rose, and a collection of Still's songs in Twelve Negro Spirituals published by Handy Brothers Publishing. Also contains folk songs composed by Still.

A-W, 1928-1973, undated
(4 folders)
Box 11

Includes an original of Ah Got a Home In-A Dat Rock printed by Charles Pace and W.C. Handy. Lyrics for some works were written by Verna Arvey. Contains some fragments.

A-W, 1938-1981,n.d
(2 folders)
Box 11

Includes full symphonies and symphonic poems, such as Darker America and Kaintuck The composer's notes for Symphony No.2 are present.

A-S, undated
Box 11

Contains band suites, solos pieces, sketches for Stormy Weather,children's music, and fragments.

Arranged alphabetically by title.

A-S, undated
(2 folders)
Box 11
Miscellaneous
Oversize Folder 1-2
B-T, 1933-1938, undated
(5 folders)
Box 12
A,1931
Box 13
B-V, 1936-1966, undated
(5 folders)
Box 13
A Bayou Legend, undated
(7 folders)
Box 14
Blue Steel, undated
(3 folders)
Box 14
Blue Steel, undated
(4 folders)
Box 15
Costaso, 1950
(4 folders)
Box 15
Costaso, 1950
(3 folders)
Box 16
From the Furnace of the Sun, 1936
Box 16
Highway 1, U.S.A., 1963, undated
(4 folders)
Box 16
Minette Fontaine, undated
(6 folders)
Box 17
Mota, undated
(4 folders)
Box 17
Mota, undated
(3 folders)
Box 18
The Pillar, 1955, undated
(6 folders)
Box 18
Troubled Island, undated
(7 folders)
Box 19
Troubled Island, undated
(2 folders)
Box 20
A-Am, 1935-1949, undated
(4 folders)
Box 20
Ar-O, 1922-1959, undated
(7 folders)
Box 21
Pa-Y, 1921-1959, undated
(5 folders)
Box 22
A, undated
Box 22
A-F, 1923-1928, undated
Box 22
L-W, 1937-1943, undated
(6 folders)
Box 23
G-S,1941, undated
Box 24
A-S, 1928-1946, undated
(4 folders)
Box 24
S, undated
(2 folders)
Box 25
A-S, 1947-1975, undated
(3 folders)
Box 25

Primarily recordings of Still's music in audio cassettes, compact disc, and phonograph record formats. The recordings have been grouped together according to their respective formats. Recordings are arranged alphabetically within each format. The performing artists have been noted when they could be readily identified.

Arranged alphabetically within each recording format.

Biography in Sound: Leopold Stowkowski, Stowkowski, Leopold,1954
Box 26
Calvacade of American Music, 1940
(4 tapes)
Box 26
Ecosphere, Agus, Ayke et al.,1991
Box 26
Minette Fontaine,undated(2 tapes)
Box 26
The Music of William Grant Still (2 tapes)
Box 26
Oboist Peter Christ, Christ, Peter with the Crystal Chamber Soloists,1979
Box 26
Our Musical Past-Vol. 5, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,1935
Box 26
Natalie Hinderas plays Piano Music, Hinderas, Natalie, undated
Box 26
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, n.d
Box 26
Symphony No. 4, The Denver Symphony, undated
Box 26
Troubled Island, undated(2 tapes)
Box 26
William Grant Still, 1895-1978, The North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra et al., not before1978
Box 26
William Grant Still Conducts William Grant Still, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, 1984
Box 26
William Grant Still Piano Music, Dominguez, Albert, undated
Box 26
William Grant Still: Strings, Keyboard and Harp, Kaufman, Louis et al., undated
Box 26
William Grant Still: Voices and Piano, William Grant Still Performing Arts Society, undated
Box 26
Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Still, Oldham, Denver, 1991
Box 26
Lenox Avenue: The Music of William Grant Still, The CBS Symphony Orchestra et al.,1991
Box 26
Louis Kaufmann, Violin: Historic Recordings of 20th Century American Works, Kaufman, Louis, 1990
Box 26
Oboist Peter Christ, Christ, Peter with the Crystal Chamber soloists,1986
Box 26
Our Musical Past- Vol. 5, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,1935
Box 26
Walk as Children, Northern Arizona University Chorale, 1991
Box 26
Works by William Grant Still, Videmus,1990
Box 26
Art Songs by Black Composers, 1980
(2 LPs)
Box 27
CBS Records Black Composers Series, 1987
(9 LPs)
Box 27
William Grant Still 1895-1978, Ozark Chamber Players of the University Arkansas
Box 27
William Grant Still Conducts William Grant Still, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, 1984
Box 27
William Grant Still: Piano Music, Albert Dominguez,1987
Box 27
William Grant Still: Strings, Keyboard and Harp, Louis Kaufmann et al.,1987
Box 27

Historical Note

DateEvent(s)
1895, May 11Born in Woodville, Miss.
1895Moved to Little Rock, Ark. with mother, Carrie Fambro Still
1911Matriculated at Wilberforce College
1915Married Grace Bundy
1916Employed in music publishing company of W. C. Handy and Charles Pace (Memphis, Tenn.)
Played in W. C. Handy's band.
1917Entered Oberlin Conservatory
1924Composed Darker America
1929Composed Breath of a Rose
1931Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performed Afro-American Symphony
1935Composed Kaintuck
1934, 1935 and 1938Won Guggenheim Fellowships
1938Married Verna Arvey
Commissioned to compose music for the 1939 New York World's Fair
1940Arranged Katherine Garrison Chapin's poem, And They Lynched Him on a Tree
1941Composed Bayou Legend
Completed Troubled Island (Libretto by Langston Hughes and Verna Arvey)
1952First full recording of Afro-American Symphony
1978, Dec. 3Died in Los Angeles

Orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, have performed Still's works throughout the United States. He received honorary degrees from the University of Arkansas, Wilberforce College, and Bates College.

Subject Headings

Provenance

The William Grant Still Papers (1877-1992) were purchased by Duke University in 1992.

Processing Information

Processed by: Daniel Daily. Assisted by: Boyd Gibson, Sandra Hack Polaski, Stephen Zank, Rachel Sullivan, and Sallie Locke

Completed October 1, 1993

Encoded by Stephen D. Miller

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.