Nell Irvin Painter papers, 1793-2021 and undated, bulk 1876-2007
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- Painter, Nell Irvin
- 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.
- 186.5 Linear Feet
- Material in English
- Collection ID:
- Scope and content:
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.
- Biographical / historical:
Date Event 1942 Aug. 2Born Nell Elizabeth Irvin, in Houston, Texas, to Frank and Dona L. Irvin 1962-1963Studied French medieval history at University of Bordeaux, France 1964B.A. (honors) in anthropology, University of California, Berkeley 1965-1966Studied at University of Ghana, Institute of African Studies; met Colin Painter, a linguistics teacher at the university, to whom she was married from 1965 to 1966 1967M.A. in African history, University of California, Los Angeles 1969Entered Harvard doctoral program in history; met Nellie Y. McKay, a first-year graduate student in English, and began lifelong friendship 1974Ph.D. in American history, Harvard University 1974-1977Assistant Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania 1976Published Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction 1977-1980Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania 1979Published The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South 1980-1988Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1982-1983Guggenheim Fellow 1985-1986Russell Sage Visiting Professor of History, Hunter College of the City University of New York 1987Published Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 1988-1989Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Fellow 1988-1991Professor of History, Princeton University 1989 Oct. 14Married Glenn R. Shafer, a professor in the business school of the University of Kansas 1990-1991Acting Director, Program in Afro-American Studies, Princeton University 1991-Edwards Professor of American History, Princeton University 1992-1993National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship 1996Published Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol 1997-2000Director, Program in African American Studies, Princeton University 2002Published Southern History Across the Color Line 2004 Apr.Retirement conference in her honor, Princeton University: "Constructing the Past, Creating the Future: The Legacy of Nell Irvin Painter" 2005Published Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present 2005Received Emeritus Status at Princeton University 2007Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2010Published The History of White People
In addition to items listed in the chronology, Painter has been an active member of a wide variety of professional organizations, including: the American Antiquarian Society, the American Historical Association, the American Studies Association, Association of Black Women Historians, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, the Institute for Southern Studies, the National Book Foundation, Organization of American Historians, and the Southern Historical Association. She has also served on the editorial boards of several publishers and journals, including the University of North Carolina Press, the Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History, and SIGNS.
Sources for biographical information include: Contemporary Authors Online; Contemporary Black Biography; Notable Black American Women; Who's Who in America, 2005-; and Painter's web site, www.nellpainter.com.
- Acquisition information:
- The Nell Irvin Painter Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2002-2022.
- Processing information:
Processed by Michael Shumate, Paula Jeannet, Owen Yeates, Aisha Peay, Christina Ramos, Marlyse Hickman MacDonald, Ted Holt, David Hershey, Jordan Marie Anderson, November 2006 and April 2009
Encoded by Michael Shumate, Owen Yeates, Aisha Peay, Ted Holt, David Hershey, Jordan Marie Anderson
Completed November 2006; updated April 2009
Accessions 2002-0182, 2006-0077, and 2008-0016 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid; accession 2010-0116 was added in 2010; accession 2011-0173 was added in 2011; accession 2012-0100 was added in 2015; accessions 2015-0036 was added in 2015; accession 2015-0192 was added in 2016; accession 2016-0112 was added in 2016; accessions 2018-0113, 2018-0178, and 2019-0096 were added in 2020; accession 2021-0093 added in 2021; accessions 2022-0027, 2022-0138 added in 2022.
Because of past exposure to water, some materials in this collection were damaged by mold, which was remediated by Conservation staff. To alert users to the presence of possible remaining mold spores, the affected materials have been labeled on the front of the folder and also in this collection guide.
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
- Migration, Internal -- United States -- History -- 19th century
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
African Americans -- Study and teaching
African fiction -- 20th century
Biography as a literary form
College teachers -- Correspondence
Historians -- United States
History -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States
Women -- Suffrage -- United States -- History
Women -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century
Women -- United States -- History
African Americans -- Biography
African Americans -- Education (Higher)
African Americans -- Employment
African Americans -- History -- 1877-1964
African Americans -- Professional education
Abolitionists -- United States
African American college teachers
African American women -- Education (Higher)
African Americans -- Photography
Scholars -- Correspondence
Slavery -- United States
Social reformers -- United States
African Americans -- History -- 19th century
African Americans -- Historiography
African Americans -- Intellectual life
African Americans -- Migrations -- History -- 19th century
Proofs (printed matter)
- University of Pennsylvania -- Faculty
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- Faculty
Princeton University -- Faculty
Harvard University -- Students
Truth, Sojourner, 1799-1883
Painter, Nell Irvin
McKay, Nellie Y.
Armah, Ayi Kwei, 1939-
- United States -- History -- 1865-1921
United States -- History -- Textbooks
United States -- Race relations
United States -- Politics and government -- 1865-1933
Ghana -- In literature
Ghana -- Description and travel
Southern States -- History -- Study and teaching
France -- Description and travel
United States -- History -- Study and teaching
United States -- Social conditions -- 1865-1918
Southern States -- Historiography
Kansas -- History
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Access is restricted. Restrictions are outlined in the Collection Control File. Unprocessed additions are closed until processing.
Unprocessed additions are restricted and must be screened before access by patrons.
Access note. Some materials in this collection are fragile audiovisual formats that may need to be reformatted before use. Contact Research Services for access.
Access note. Some materials in this collection are electronic records that may need to be reformatted. Access copies of electronic records require special equipment. Contact Research Services for access.
Access note: Personal journals are closed to research for 50 years from the date of creation.
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[Identification of item], Nell Irvin Painter Papers, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University.