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Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture

Identifier: 2000-0105

Scope and Contents

The Archives contain sound recordings of a full range of African American music from African, gospel and the blues in all its forms, to Cajun and zydeco, early New Orleans jazz and more recent jazz, ragtime, Caribbean, reggae and rap and hip hop music. Original research materials include field notes, musician’s contracts, studio session listings and photographs, as well as engagement diaries and interview notes. A host of reference sources including monographs, sheet music, film and video recordings on African American music are also available for research use.

The monograph collection includes works important to the study of African American music by Woody Guthrie, Langston Hughes, Frances Kemble, Frederic Ramsey, William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison.

Sound recordings in the archive include African source materials, American pre-blues, rural and urban gospel, rural blues and jug bands, early urban and women’s blues, Chicago and modern electric blues, zydeco and Cajun, New Orleans folk jazz, ragtime, rural white blues, contemporary blues-based guitar, Caribbean, rap and hip hop, new Reggae, and jazz. Contained in the Archives is the complete catalog of Arhoolie records and Fantasy Records Original Jazz Classics Series of re-releases. Recordings of three avant-garde jazz labels are represented: Nessa Records, Silkheart Records and Gazell Records.

The sheet music archive covers the period 1881-1996 with emphasis on the early twentieth century. The collection comprises ragtime, "coon" songs, the work of Bert Williams and George Walker, jazz dance and piano blues, and the work of William Grant Still. A part book from The Red Back Book is also present.

The sound archive of the Maple Leaf Club of Los Angeles documents American ragtime from the 1960s to the 1990s including presentations of the work of Joseph Lamb.


  • Creation: undated, 1844-2001



Use of motion picture film and reel to reel audiotapes requires production of listening copies. Use of phonograph records requires advance notice and assistance from staff. It is strongly recommended that appointments be made with the Curator to discuss materials of interest.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.


For nearly the last 50 years, Samuel Charters has been discovering and documenting African American music. Starting as a field recorder for Folkways Records in 1954, Sam Charters has also served as recording director for Prestige and Vanguard Records, producer for Sonet Records and is the owner of Gazell Records. A prolific writer and poet, Charters has published many books about the blues and accounts of the lives of musicians who played the blues. In the field, he often collaborated with his wife Ann, who is a writer, literary scholar, photographer and pianist in her own right. Their quest to document African American music has taken them to St. Louis, Memphis, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, the Caribbean and as far as Africa. In these places, the Charters have tried to record music that they believed was going to be lost. Their efforts to preserve and share the songs that they heard on their travels have culminated in a working archive that provides researchers with a complete experience of African American vernacular music.


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Despite its primary emphasis on the blues and ragtime, the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives spans the entire 20th century, beginning with African-American spirituals and the ragtime of Scott Joplin and other early composers, and ending with Snoop Doggy Dogg and the rappers of the late 20th century. The Archives holds thousands of hours of recorded music on LP, 45 rpm and 78 rpm records, compact discs, audio cassettes, and reel-to-reel tapes. Though some records date back to the 1920s, the compact discs in the collection include both recent and reissued material. Most of these recordings are commercial, and the Archives holds a complete catalog of music produced by the Arhoolie label, courtesy of label owner, Chris Strachwitz and Document Records, courtesy of label managing director, Gary Atkinson. The artists included in the Charters Archives range from the most famous blues performers such as B.B. King and Robert Johnson, to obscure ragtime musicians. Many of the ragtime recordings are from concerts, conventions, and meetings hosted by the Maple Leaf Club.


Section I. Personal Archive of Books, Related Writings, Research materials, Field notes, Musician's Contracts, Studio Session listings, and Photographs (1943 - 2001)

Section II-A. Archive of Books, Recordings, Sheet Music, Videos, and Advertising materials (1864 -1999)

Section II-B. Recordings (1947-2000)

Section II-C. Sheet Music (undated,1844-1996)

Section II-D. The Arhoolie Collection (undated)

Section II-E. Videos (undated, 1984- 2000)

Section II-F and G. Artist's Promotion (undated, circa 1927-1999)

Section II-H. Maple Leaf Club Archive (1960s-1990s)

Section II-I. The Document Records Collection

Section III-A. The Jazz Makers (undated, 1939-2001)

Section III-B. The World of Jazz (undated, 1923-1990)

Section III-C. The World of Jazz Today (1967-1999)

Section III-D. The Written Word (1934-2000)

Section III-E. The Fantasy Collection (undated, 1940s-1980s)

Section IV. The Composers and the African Spirit (undated, 1984-1992)

Section V. Blues Publications

Acquisition Information

The Archives has been donated by the Charters' in installments beginning in 2000.

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

Copy of Black Patti poster on display in Samuel and Ann Charters Multimedia Room.

Related Material

Alexander R. Colwick Collection of Jazz and Big Band Records Charters Listening Night, November 1, 2005. 1 audio cassette tape. Dodd Audio 866 Charters Listening Night, November 1, 2005. 1 VHS videocassette tape. 2000-0105/VR1 Jazz Improv, vol.1, no. 4. Dodd Periodical Jazz Improv companion CD, vol. 1, no.4. 1 musical CD. Dodd CD 1868 Sunnyland Slim: Live at the D.C. Blues Society. Recorded at the Roxy, Washington, D.C., October 13, 1987. Mapleshade Productions, 1990 Jazz Heritage. 1 audio cassette tape. Dodd Audio 1083 Worlds of Sound: the Ballad of Folkways Records. Broadcast on the Smithsonian channel. 1 DVD. Screening copy. Dodd DVD 134 The Tragi-comic Life of Bert Williams. Lenny Henry tells the story of the first great Black comedian, Bert Williams. As part of a double act with George Walker, Bert became a star in musical comedy and vaudeville. Includes interview with Ann Charters. Aired on BBC radio, 1986. 1 audio CD. Dodd CD 1871 Jazz, vols. 1-11. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. 11 LP discs. Dodd LP 1187a-k Swann Galleries. Printed & mss. African-Americana. 2004. Dodd C 10151 Swann Galleries. Printed & mss. African-Americana. 2008. Dodd C 10152 Swann Galleries. Printed & mss. African-Americana. 2010. Dodd C 10581 The Ann and Samuel Charters Archive of Writers and Materials of the Harlem Renaissance MSS 2010-0116 Thygesen, Helge, Mark Berresford and Russ Schor Black Swan, The Record Label of the Harlem Renaissance. Nottingham, England: VJM Publications, 1996. Dodd D 2243 Black Swan 2015 The Rosary (Marianna Johnson)/Sorter Miss You (Accompanied by the Black Swan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Grant Still) 2010-0116/SE1 Negro Spirituals. Arrangement by H.T. Burleigh. G. Ricordi & Col. Inc., New York, 1924. Sheet Music Folder 344 Country Joe and the Fish. Electric Music for the Mind and Body. Vanguard Masters VMD2 79244. 2000-0105/CD 2899 Brian "Bee" Minter's Gothic Jazz Band. The "Carrot" Sessions. 2000-0105/CD 2902

For detailed information on these collections please contact the curator or ask at the Reading Room desk.



Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US