Nell Irvin Painter is a scholar, teacher, and writer in 19th- and 20th-century American and African American history who has been a faculty member of Harvard, Princeton, and the Universities of North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Collection spans the years 1793-2019, with the bulk of the material dating between 1876 and 2007, and contains correspondence, research notes, photocopies of original documents, manuscripts, publication proofs, syllabi, department memoranda, records of her speaking engagements, photographs, personal journals, papers, and photographs, many varying audiovisual formats, and computer diskettes. Also contains extensive file series related to the research and writing of five of her major books: Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction; The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South; Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919; Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol; and Creating Black Americans: African-American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present.
The Nell Irvin Painter Papers span the years 1793-2021, with the bulk of the material dating between 1876 and 2007, and are primarily composed of the extensive correspondence, writing, research, teaching materials, and other professional papers that Painter has produced in her long career as a scholar, teacher, and writer in 19th- and 20th-century American and African American history. The materials document the breadth and depth of Painter's interests and her intellectual and personal influence on a generation of historians. Her varied roles as student, teacher, colleague, and mentor are recorded in a wide variety of formats: correspondence with colleagues, students, family, and friends; syllabi, department memoranda, and meeting minutes from her graduate and faculty positions at Harvard, Princeton, and the Universities of North Carolina and Pennsylvania; materials from many professional organizations in the fields of African American history, Southern history, American studies, and women's studies; and records of her speaking engagements, conferences, and meetings. Painter the historian and author are revealed in the extensive notes, photocopies, recordings, photographs, manuscripts, and proofs produced in writing many articles and five of her major books: Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction; The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South; Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919; Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol; and Creating Black Americans: African-American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present. The portrait is rounded out by the materials in other series: personal files, which include materials from her student years at Harvard and abroad in Ghana and France as well as personal journals; a few papers of Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah; photographs, including many historical photographs of African Americans as well as many personal snapshots in color and black-and-white; and other non-print media such as audiotapes, audiocassettes, videocassettes, and computer diskettes.
Painter's research files contain a wealth of information about many topics in American history: biography of African Americans; biography as a literary form; slavery; Reconstruction; the 1870s migration from the South to Kansas; a variety of social reform movements--such as abolition, communism, labor, and women's suffrage--and movers, such as Sojourner Truth and Hosea Hudson; and the history of social conditions and political change in the United States from the early-19th to the mid-20th century, particularly as expressed in race relations, in women's history, and in the South. At the same time, Painter's papers also constitute a contemporary record of many trends in American culture such as career and educational choices and opportunities for academic women and African American professionals. Her correspondence with students, colleagues, and longtime friends such as Nellie Y. McKay, her teaching material and academic files, her papers from an array of historians' organizations, and her personal journals each shed their own light on these themes.
The collection is arranged in these series: Correspondence, Writings and Research, Teaching Materials, Professional Service, Personal Files, Photographic Materials, Audiovisual Materials,Electronic Formats, and a collection of private papers collected by Painter, the Ayi Kwei Armah Papers. The first four series comprise almost eighty percent of the physical extent of the collection and are each divided into several subseries. The Correspondence Series follows Painter's personal life, education, and professional career from her graduate years at Harvard in the late 1960s through her retirement from Princeton in 2004.
The Writings and Research Series is arranged in seven subseries, the first five of which are based on five of Painter's major books; the final two subseries are Other Research Topics, which gathers many of Painter's shorter writings, and Writings by Others. With the exception of the last, all the subseries here contain correspondence with colleagues and editors; typescript drafts of works; various stages of proof; extensive photocopies of archival materials and published articles; voluminous notes about her readings and research; and some photographs and recordings, most of which have been removed to their respective series for preservation.
The Teaching Materials Series documents Painter's work with students and academic colleagues at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina, Hunter College, and Princeton University. It is arranged into two series: Courses Subseries, with syllabi, reading lists, and Painter's notes on the development of her courses that reflect the evolution of women's studies and African American studies in the curriculum; and the Academic Files Subseries, revealing Painter's many different roles over three decades: graduate student, job applicant, junior and tenured faculty member, dissertation advisor, mentor, and department head.
The Professional Service Series, arranged in two subseries, documents Painter's activities in the broader academic community beyond her university of employment and her personal connections through materials from well over one hundred professional organizations, conferences, foundations, committees and task forces, as well as editorial boards of journals and publishers with which Painter has worked during her career. The Engagements Subseries gathers documents relating to addresses, speeches, and awards ceremonies at some three hundred conferences, meetings, and symposia.
Five smaller series and a gathering of oversize material round out the collection. The Personal Files Series contains an assortment of records such as curriculum vitae; documents about her family; and some records of her student years, especially her travel and study in France and Africa. The series includes some three dozen personal journals covering most of the years from 1959-2005 containing entries about her life and career (NOTE: some journals are CLOSED to use; see details in the series note). The Photographic Materials Series contains several hundred photographs, negatives, and slides, predominantly personal and travel snapshots but also including professional portraits of Painter as well as a number of original photographs and reproductions of archival photographs she used in her research and writing. Much of the material in the early years of the Audiovisual Materials Series is related to her research and writing; by the 1990s, the content shifts focus to documenting Painter herself on the occasion of various interviews and addresses. The Electronic Formats Series consists of diskettes containing correspondence and drafts of writings. The Oversize Materials contains items from several series and subseries are gathered. The final series in the collection consists not of Painter's own work but that of a Ghanaian novelist and poet; see the Ayi Kwei Armah Papers (RESTRICTED) series note for further information on the provenance and usage of these materials.
Unprocessed additions to the collection are listed at the end of the collection guide.
Note about date range of materials: The primary material produced by Painter begins around 1959 with her earliest journals. Earlier dates in various series, occurring mainly in Writings and Research, reflect the intellectual content and original publication of the large volume of reproduced research material present in the collection.