Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992

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Eva Jessye-Director of Music-Writer. b. Coffeyville, Kan.; educated Western University, Kansas City, Kan.; State University for Colored, Langston, OK. Director of Music, Morgan College, Baltimore, Md., 1920; Editorial staff, Afro-American, Baltimore, Md., one year. Won prizes: Essay, Music, Poetry, Interstate Literary Society of Kansas and the West; President Interstate Society, 1924. Director of Music, first all-Negro moving picture, "Hallelujah," produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation, directed by King Vidor, 1929. Creator, "Aunt Mamy's chillun," sketches of Negro life, Radio Feature; also "Four dusty travellers," over Station WOR, New York City; appointed choral director by Gershwin for "Porgy and Bess"; founded the Eva Jessye Choir; Artist-in-residence (3 yrs.) at Pittsburg State University, Kansas.

From the description of Papers. 1936-1981, n.d. (Ascension Parish School). WorldCat record id: 19655633

A prominent choral director, composer, arranger, writer, poet, actress and African American music historian. Jessye was conductor for the Original Dixie Jubilee Singers and choral director for the opera Four Saints in Three Acts, and was choral director for the original production of Porgy and Bess, and toured extensively in later performances of Porgy and Bess. Jessye came to the University of Michigan in 1974 and established the Eva Jessye Afro-American Music Collection.

From the description of Eva Jessye collection, 1927-1992. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 491404280

From the description of Eva Jessye photograph series. 1929-1990. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 491420327

Eva Alberta Jessye (b. 1895 d. 1992) was a writer, singer, and civil rights activist. Eva Alberta Jessye was born on January 20, 1895, in Coffeyville, Kansas, a small town bordering Oklahoma. As a small child Eva sang and was an avid reader. She wrote her first poem at the age of seven. She studied choral music and music theory at Western University, graduating in 1914, and received a degree from Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. In 1926 in New York she joined the Dixie Jubilee Singers. This group became the Eva Jessye Choir that performed spirituals, work songs, ballads, ragtime, jazz and light opera. In 1936 George Gershwin appointed Jessye to be choral director for the original production of "Porgy and Bess". For the next thirty years, Jessye was associated with virtually every production of "Porgy and Bess" worldwide. Eva Jessye was involved in the civil rights movement. In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. selected the Eva Jessye Choir as the official chorus of the historic March on Washington. The choir performed "We Shall Overcome" and "Freedom Is The Thing We're Talking About." Dr. Eva Jessye died on February 21, 1992 at the age of 97 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

From the description of Eva Jessye collection, 1951-1981. (Australian National University). WorldCat record id: 314126844

Eva Jessye was born in Coffeyville, Kansas on January 20, 1895. She attended Western University and Langston University, receiving her BA in 1919. After a number of teaching positions in Baltimore (Morgan College, 1919) and Tulahassee (1920-1925), Oklahoma, Jessye worked for the Baltimore newspaper, The Afro-American .

Moving to New York, she formed a small singing group that came to the attention of African American composer Will Marion Cook. Cook became her mentor, tutoring her in music theory and music management. In 1926 Jessye organized the Original Dixie Jubilee Singers, which performed regularly on radio shows such as "The Major Bowes Family Radio Hour" and "The General Motors Hour." In 1929 Jessye and the Original Dixie Jubilee Singers went to Hollywood and appeared in King Vidor's all-black film Hallelujah . Because the name "Dixie Jubilee Singers" was being appropriated by many other choirs, her choir's name was changed to the Eva Jessye Choir.

In 1934 Jessye became the choir director of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson's work Four Saint in Three Acts . In 1935, Jessye became the choral director for the premiere production of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess . Jessye toured the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union and New Zealand performing Porgy and Bess and was associated with countless other productions worldwide. Jessye acted as an adviser for the BBC's For the Children: Huckleberry Finn and Down in the Valley (1952) and performed in the 1959 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Kiss Me Kate . In 1963, her choir was designated the official chorus of the civil rights march on Washington, DC, organized by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Throughout Jessye's career she appeared in several motion pictures including Hallelujah (1929) (where she was also the Musical Director), Black Like Me (1964) and Slaves (1969) with Stephen Boyd and Ossie Davis.

Jessye came to the University of Michigan in 1974. With the encouragement of Dean Willis Paterson, she established the Eva Jessye Afro-American Music Collection which is the basis for the present collection. From 1977 to 1981 she was an Artist in-Residence at Pittsburg State University in Kansas where she created a similar Eva Jessye Collection (see: http://library.pittstate.edu/spcool/ndxjessye.html). Jessye was honored by many universities, states and cities for her life achievements and received honorary doctorates from the University of Michigan School of Music, Eastern Michigan University and Glassboro State College.

Dr. Eva Jessye died on February 21, 1992, at the age of 97 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Sources Consulted:

http://www.umich.edu/~afroammu/jessye.html (as of April 21, 2009)

The Eva Jessye Collection, AXE-Special Collections . (n.d.) Retrieved April 21, 2005, from: http://library.pittstate.edu/spcool/ndxjessye.html/. Leonard H. Axe Library, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas

From the guide to the Eva Jessye Collection, 1927-1992, 1935-1980, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992. The Eva Jessye collection, ca. 1885-1994 Pittsburg State University, Leonard H. Axe Library
creatorOf Walker-Hill, Helen. Collection. 1887- Columbia College Chicago
creatorOf Drayton, Thaddeus. Thaddeus Drayton collection, 1926-1960. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Helen Armstead-Johnson miscellaneous theater collections, 1831-1993 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
creatorOf Eva Jessye collection The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Edward Jablonski and Lawrence D. Stewart Collection TXRC93-A39., 1931-1973 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Negro Actors Guild of America, Inc. Negro Actors Guild of America records, 1904-1982, 1937-1982 (bulk). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Alice Childress papers, 1937-1997 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
creatorOf Duke, Vernon, 1903-1969. Edward Jablonski and Lawrence D. Stewart Collection, 1931-1973, (bulk 1957-1973). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992. Eva Jessye photograph series. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Johnson, Helen A. Helen Armstead-Johnson miscellaneous theater collections, 1831-1993. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992. Eva Jessye collection, 1927-1992. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn [Biographical newspaper articles on Eva Jessye / collected and photocopied by the Kansas State Historical Society]. Kansas State Historical Society
referencedIn Cheatham, Wallace. Correspondence with Eugene Ormandy, 1977. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Negro Actors Guild of America records, 1904-1982, 1937-1982 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Media Resources Center (University of Michigan) records, 1948-1987, 1948-1987 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Media Resources Center (University of Michigan) films and videotapes, 1930s and 1948-1986 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Lerner, Eugene, collector. The Josephine Baker collection, 1926-2001 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Gellert, Lawrence, 1898-1979. Papers, 1927-1978. Indiana University
referencedIn University of Michigan. News and Information Services. Faculty and Staff Files, 1944-2005 (bulk 1960-1995) Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Thibodeaux, James C. Thibodeaux, James C., photograph collection, 1883-2000. University of Texas Libraries
creatorOf Eva Jessye Collection, 1927-1992, 1935-1980 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn News and Information Services (University of Michigan) photograph series D (faculty and staff portraits), 1946-2006, 1950-1990 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom John F. Kennedy Library
referencedIn Goreau, Laurraine R. Papers. 1957, 1977-1981, n.d. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
referencedIn Childress, Alice. Alice Childress papers, 1937-1997. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992. Eva Jessye collection, 1951-1981. Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library
creatorOf Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992. Papers. 1936-1981, n.d. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
creatorOf Jessye, Eva, 1895-1992. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1931-1973. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Cheatham, Wallace. person
associatedWith Childress, Alice. person
associatedWith Davis, Ossie person
associatedWith Drayton, Thaddeus. person
associatedWith Gellert, Lawrence, 1898-1979. person
associatedWith Gershwin, George, 1898-1937. person
associatedWith Goreau, Laurraine R. person
associatedWith Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967. person
associatedWith Jablonski, Edward person
associatedWith Jesye, Eva, 1895-1992. person
associatedWith Johnson, Helen A. person
associatedWith Leonard H. Axe Library. Special Collections. corporateBody
associatedWith Lerner, Eugene, collector. person
participantIn March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Negro Actors Guild of America, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, KA) corporateBody
associatedWith Stewart, Lawrence D. (Lawrence Delbert), 1926- person
associatedWith Stowkowski, Leopold, 1882-1977. person
associatedWith Thibodeaux, James C. person
associatedWith University of Michigan. Media Resources Center. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. News and Information Services corporateBody
associatedWith Walker-Hill, Helen person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Kansas
United States
United States
Subject
African American women musicians
Women musicians
Music by African American women composers
Theatrical productions
African American acresses
African American actresses
African American theater
Actors
Acresses
Conductors (Music)
Choral conductors--Biography
African American women composers
African American women composers--Biography
Conductors (Music)--United States
Composers
Musicians--United States
African American actors
African American composers
African American women musicians--Biography
African American singers
African Americans--Music
Musicians
Spirituals (Songs)
African American women
Theatrical productions--United States
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1895-01-20

Death 1992-02-21

Americans

English

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