HARRISON, PAUL CARTER, 1936-
Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322

404-727-6887

rose.library@emory.edu

Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8zdjn

Collection Stored Off-Site

All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of up to two business days for retrieval.


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Harrison, Paul Carter, 1936-
Title: Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 1149
Extent: 30 linear feet (60 boxes), 2 oversized papers boxes (OP), 2 bound volumes (BV) and A/V Masters: 2.5 linear ft.
Abstract:Papers of African American playwright and scholar Paul Carter Harrison, including correspondence; play scripts, books and other writings by Harrison; subject files; writings by others; printed material; photographs; and audiovisual material.
Language:Materials primarily in English with some material in Dutch.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Use copies of audiovisual material in this collection have not been made at this time. Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance to access this material. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance for access to unprocessed born digital materials in this collection. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to unprocessed born digital materials.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Printed or manuscript music in this collection that is still under copyright protection and is not in the Public Domain may not be photocopied or photographed. Researchers must provide written authorization from the copyright holder to request copies of these materials.

Source

Gift, 2010.

Citation

[after identification of item(s)], Paul Carter Harrison papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Processing

Processed by Sarah Quigley, Margaret Greaves, and Ingrid Meintjes, April 2014.


Collection Description

Biographical Note

Paul Carter Harrison, African American playwright, director, and scholar, was born on March 1, 1936 in New York City, New York, to Thelma Inez and Paul Randolph Harrison. In 1957, Harrison earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and after moving back to New York, earned a Master of Arts in psychology and phenomenology from the New School for Social Research in 1962. Following graduate school, Harrison moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he lived for seven years and became active in the arts, staging readings by black poets and writing for television and the theater. During a visit to America, Harrison witnessed the 1964 Harlem riots, which significantly influenced Tabernacle (1965), his first full-length play. Harrison is the author of numerous other plays, including The Great MacDaddy, which won an Obie Award (Off-Broadway Theater Award bestowed by The Village Voice) in 1974.

Harrison’s work often combines elements of African mythology and ritual with American traditions such as jazz to highlight unique elements of African American culture and history. Plays such as Tophat and Pavane for a Dead-Pan Minstrel have also explored traditional racial and gender roles by depicting characters who trade races or exhibit non-traditional gender behaviors. Harrison’s work also experiments with closing the distance between audience and performers in productions such as Tabernacle, which casts the audience as the congregation of a church service lead by the main character, and his direction of Melvin Van PeeblesAin’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death (1970), which planted in the audience actors dressed as street people, drunks, and prostitutes to interact with theater-goers.

Harrison is also a scholar and professor. After returning to live in the United States, he took the position of assistant professor in theater arts at Howard University from 1968-1970. He went on to teach theater arts and African American studies at several universities, including California State University, Sacramento; University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Columbia College in Chicago. Harrison retired from Columbia College in 2002 and is now Professor Emeritus there. He has published several monographs and edited works on black theater, including The Drama of Nommo: Black Theater in the African Continuum (1972), Kuntu Drama: Plays of the African Continuum (1974), and Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory (1988).

Paul Carter Harrison, African American playwright, director, and scholar, was born on March 1, 1936 in New York City, New York, to Thelma Inez and Paul Randolph Harrison. In 1957, Harrison earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and after moving back to New York, earned a Master of Arts in psychology and phenomenology from the New School for Social Research in 1962. Following graduate school, Harrison moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he lived for seven years and became active in the arts, staging readings by black poets and writing for television and the theater. During a visit to America, Harrison witnessed the 1964 Harlem riots, which significantly influenced Tabernacle (1965), his first full-length play. Harrison is the author of numerous other plays, including The Great MacDaddy, which won an Obie Award (Off-Broadway Theater Award bestowed by The Village Voice) in 1974.

Harrison’s work often combines elements of African mythology and ritual with American traditions such as jazz to highlight unique elements of African American culture and history. Plays such as Tophat and Pavane for a Dead-Pan Minstrel have also explored traditional racial and gender roles by depicting characters who trade races or exhibit non-traditional gender behaviors. Harrison’s work also experiments with closing the distance between audience and performers in productions such as Tabernacle, which casts the audience as the congregation of a church service lead by the main character, and his direction of Melvin Van Peebles’ Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death (1970), which planted in the audience actors dressed as street people, drunks, and prostitutes to interact with theater-goers.

Harrison is also a scholar and professor. After returning to live in the United States, he took the position of assistant professor in theater arts at Howard University from 1968-1970. He went on to teach theater arts and African American studies at several universities, including California State University, Sacramento; University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Columbia College in Chicago. Harrison retired from Columbia College in 2002 and is now Professor Emeritus there. He has published several monographs and edited works on black theater, including The Drama of Nommo: Black Theater in the African Continuum (1972), Kuntu Drama: Plays of the African Continuum (1974), and Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory (1988).

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of Paul Carter Harrison from 1939-2016, including correspondence and personal papers, writings by Harrison and others, subject files, printed material, photographs and audiovisual material. The collection documents Harrison’s numerous professional roles as playwright, director, producer, screenwriter, scholar, and professor, as well as his many collaborations with other artists, including composers and musicians such as Buster Davis, Julius Hemphill, T.S. Galloway, and Clyde S. Batton, as well as writer Odie Hawkins and director Gilbert Moses. Correspondence in the collection is both personal and professional in nature and includes letters between Harrison and his daughter Fonteyn Harrison and his previous wives: Dutch actress Ria Vroemen and author Carla van Splunteren. Also included are letters between Harrison and artists in theater and film such as Pearl Cleage, Gilbert Moses, and Sheldon Patinkin as well as correspondence with publishing houses and theater organizations such as the Negro Ensemble Company. Personal papers contain financial and legal documents, playwright and commission agreements, and service and production contracts for multiple projects.

Writings by Harrison contain typescript drafts, synopses, notes, and performance files of Harrison’s plays, musicals, and operas as well as manuscript and printed scores and sheet music for various performances. Also present are typescripts, synopses, and treatments for Harrison’s screenplays, including works such as Lord Shango (1975), Youngblood (1978), and A Change is Gonna Come, an unproduced biopic about musician Sam Cooke. Writings by Harrison also contains a small number of teleplay typescripts for the programs Getting to Know Me (1980) and Uptown Strutter’s Ball (unproduced). Other writings by Harrison primarily include drafts of Harrison’s articles, essays and reviews concerning race and the black theater. Books and compilations written by Harrison include his unpublished novel One Anonymous Mourning and a collection of short stories, as well his book-length work of collected essays, The Drama of Nommo. A significant amount of material also pertains to two volumes Harrison compiled and edited: Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora and Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory.

Writings by others include articles and essays about Harrison and works directed or produced by Harrison, as well as plays, essays, musicals, reviews, and poetry sent to and collected by Harrison. Of particular interest are essays by Amiri Baraka and Ed Bullins as well as a typescript of August Wilson’s play Jitney. Subject files contain material on subjects of personal and professional interest to Harrison primarily relating to African American theater and the arts; project and grant proposal files relating to Harrison’s writings and black theatre; and teaching files containing syllabi, course notes, and other teaching material. Printed material includes reprints of published articles and plays written by Harrison as well as published articles, interviews, reviews, and event programs about Harrison. A notable collection of newspaper clippings from the 1960s are articles by and about Harrison from the Dutch newspaper De Nieuwe Linie with a few from the now defunct Algemeen Handelsblad. Other printed material includes articles, book chapters, publications, and other newspaper clippings collected by Harrison.

Photographs contain images of Harrison, Laurence Fishburne, Roscoe Lee Brown, Oliver Lee Jackson, Salome Jens, Duane Jones, Melba Moore, Larry Neal, and Charles (Chuck) Stewart, as well as Harrison’s parents Paul Harrison and Thelma Harrison and his daughter Fontayne Thelma Harrison. There are also photographs of productions of Doxology Opera, Pavane for a Dead-Pan Minstrel, and photographs taken by Bert Andrews, Adger W. Cowans and Joseph Mehling. Audiovisual material contains sound, video, and film recordings of Paul Carter Harrison’s theatre productions, as well as recordings of conferences and seminars that Harrison attended such as the Black Arts Seminar at Howard University in 1970, the National Black Theater Summit "On Golden Pond" in 1998, and the ETA Creative Arts Foundation Playwrights Discovery/Development Initiative from 1992-1998.

Arrangement Note

Organized into eight series: (1) Correspondence and personal papers, (2) Writings by Harrison, (3) Writings by others (4) Subject files, (5) Printed material, (6) Photographs, (7) Audiovisual material, and (8) Born digital material.


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Description of Series

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