MILLER, MAY.
May Miller papers, 1909-1990

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:/25593/8znwr


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Miller, May.
Title: May Miller papers, 1909-1990
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 1080
Extent: 17.5 linear ft. (42 boxes), 5 oversized papers (OP), 1 oversized bound volume (OBV), and 2 bound volumes (BV)
Abstract:Papers of May Miller, African American poet, educator, and playwright, including writings, correspondence, printed material, photographs, scrapbooks, artwork, and legal and financial records.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Restrictions on access to Miller's unpublished novel expired in 2016.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Source

Purchase, 2006.

Custodial History

Originally received as part of the Kelly Miller papers.

Citation

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

Processing

Processed by Amber L. Moore, Tricia Hersey, Jason Gutierrez, and Ariel Svarch, 2014.


Collection Description

Biographical Note

Playwright, poet, and teacher May Miller was born January 26, 1899, in Washington D.C. She was one of five children born to Anna May Miller and Kelly Miller. Both her parents were educators; Anna May worked as a teacher in the Baltimore area and Kelly was a sociologist who taught at Howard University. As one of the founders of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard, Kelly Miller was a leading African American intellectual at the time and May grew up in a house that welcomed figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter Woodson, and Booker T. Washington.

Miller attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington D.C., which counted playwrights Mary Burrill and Angelina Grimke among its faculty. She published her first poem at fourteen in School Progress magazine. A year later School Progress also published Miller's first play, Pandora's Box. After graduating from Dunbar in 1916, she enrolled in Howard University where she studied drama and was involved in acting and writing plays with the Howard University Dramatic Club. She graduated at the top of her class in 1920 and was awarded a prize for her play Within the Shadow. Upon graduating, Miller moved to Baltimore and taught speech and drama at Frederick Douglass High School. While in Baltimore, she worked with the Krigwa Players, which gave her the opportunity to continue acting, and during the summers she studied playwriting at Columbia University (New York).

In 1925, her play The Bog Guide was awarded third prize in a contest held by Opportunity magazine that also awarded works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen. The following year her play The Cuss'd Thing was an honorable mention in a drama contest sponsored by Opportunity. Her play Scratches was published in the Carolina Magazine in 1929. During the 1920s and 1930s, Miller wrote twenty one-act plays, including Christophe's Daughter (1935), In The Dark (1930), Samory (1935), and Nails and Thrones (1933). She married John Sullivan in 1941 and wrote her last play, Freedom's Children on the March , in 1943. The following year she retired from the Baltimore school system and turned her attention to poetry.

Her poem "Tally" was published in the Antioch Review in 1945. Three years later Poetry published "Measurement", "Instant Before Sleep", and "Brief Negro Sermon". In 1950 her poem "Hierarchy" was published, again in the Antioch Review. Over the following decades Miller published nine books of poetry, including Into the Clearing (1959), Poems (1962), Lyrics of Three Women (1964), Not That Far (1973), The Clearing and Beyond (1974), Dust of Uncertain Journey (1975), Halfway to the Sun (1981), The Ransomed Wait (1983), and Collected Poems (1989).

In 1962, Miller was named Poet in Residence at Monmouth College (Monmouth, Illinois). She was also appointed Poet in Residence at University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin) in 1972, and held the same post at West Virginia State College, Bluefield (Bluefield, West Virginia) in 1974. She was invited to read her work at the inauguration of Washington, D.C.'s first elected mayor, Walter Washington, in 1975. The following year she read at the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. May Miller died on February 8, 1995.

Playwright, poet, and teacher May Miller was born January 26, 1899, in Washington D.C. She was one of five children born to Anna May Miller and Kelly Miller. Both her parents were educators; Anna May worked as a teacher in the Baltimore area and Kelly was a sociologist who taught at Howard University. As one of the founders of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard, Kelly Miller was a leading African American intellectual at the time and May grew up in a house that welcomed figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter Woodson, and Booker T. Washington.

Miller attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington D.C., which counted playwrights Mary Burrill and Angelina Grimke among its faculty. She published her first poem at fourteen in School Progress magazine. A year later School Progress also published Miller's first play, Pandora's Box. After graduating from Dunbar in 1916, she enrolled in Howard University where she studied drama and was involved in acting and writing plays with the Howard University Dramatic Club. She graduated at the top of her class in 1920 and was awarded a prize for her play Within the Shadow. Upon graduating, Miller moved to Baltimore and taught speech and drama at Frederick Douglass High School. While in Baltimore, she worked with the Krigwa Players, which gave her the opportunity to continue acting, and during the summers she studied playwriting at Columbia University (New York).

In 1925, her play The Bog Guide was awarded third prize in a contest held by Opportunity magazine that also awarded works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen. The following year her play The Cuss'd Thing was an honorable mention in a drama contest sponsored by Opportunity. Her play Scratches was published in the Carolina Magazine in 1929. During the 1920s and 1930s, Miller wrote twenty one-act plays, including Christophe's Daughter (1935), In The Dark (1930), Samory (1935), and Nails and Thrones (1933). She married John Sullivan in 1941 and wrote her last play, Freedom's Children on the March , in 1943. The following year she retired from the Baltimore school system and turned her attention to poetry.

Her poem Tally was published in the Antioch Review in 1945. Three years later Poetry published Measurement, Instant Before Sleep, and Brief Negro Sermon. In 1950 her poem Hierarchy was published, again in the Antioch Review. Over the following decades Miller published nine books of poetry, including Into the Clearing (1959), Poems (1962), Lyrics of Three Women (1964), Not That Far (1973), The Clearing and Beyond (1974), Dust of Uncertain Journey (1975), Halfway to the Sun (1981), The Ransomed Wait (1983), and Collected Poems (1989).

In 1962, Miller was named Poet in Residence at Monmouth College (Monmouth, Illinois). She was also appointed Poet in Residence at University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin) in 1972, and held the same post at West Virginia State College, Bluefield (Bluefield, West Virginia) in 1974. She was invited to read her work at the inauguration of Washington, D.C.'s first elected mayor, Walter Washington, in 1975. The following year she read at the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. May Miller died on February 8, 1995.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of May Miller from 1909-1990 and includes correspondence and personal papers, writings by Miller, writings by others, photographs, and printed material. Correspondence is comprised of both personal and professional letters and notes from Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, W.E.B. Du Bois, Dorothy Goldberg, Josephine Jacobsen, Pinkie Gordon Lane, and John Pauker. Personal papers include diaries, royalty statements, and teaching files including poems and plays written by her students. Family papers from Miller's parents, Kelly Miller and Anna Mae Miller and siblings, Kelly Miller, Jr. and Irene Reid Miller are also included. Writings contain original manuscripts of her published and unpublished poetry, short stories, essays, plays, and the draft of an unpublished novel. Writings are both handwritten and typescript drafts including annotations by Miller. Also included is her work while a student at Howard University. Writings by others include poetry and plays sent to Miller by writers including Agnes Nasmith Johnston, Paul Lawson, and Paul Hopper.

Photographs consist of portraits and snapshots of Miller and her relatives, as well as a photograph album of Miller as an undergraduate at Howard University and photographs taken by Robert Scurlock. Printed material by Moore contains her published writings in Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races and Negro History Bulletin. Printed material about her includes articles and clippings as well as brochures, flyers, and programs relating to her events and writings. General printed material consists of collected promotional material about events held at various cultural and educational institutions including the National Conference of Afro-American Writers, and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Arrangement Note

Organized into five series: (1) Correspondence and personal papers, (2) Writings by Miller, (3) Writings by others, (4) Photographs, and (5) Printed material.


Selected Search Terms

Personal Names

Topical Terms

Form/Genre Terms


Description of Series

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