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Glory Van Scott

Producer, performer, educator, and civic activist, Glory Van Scott, was born in Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 1947. Van Scott's parents, Dr. and Ms. Thomas Van Scott, were raised near Greenwood, Mississippi and shared some Choctaw and Seminole ancestry. The trauma of Van Scott's cousin Emmett Till’s murder in 1955 did not diminish the benefit of the art, dance, and drama classes at The Abraham Lincoln Center, where she met Paul Robeson and Charity Bailey. Van Scott spent summers in Ethical Culture Camp in New York. A student at Oakland Elementary School and Dunbar High School, Van Scott finished high school at Ethical Culture High School in New York City.

That summer at the Society for Ethical Culture’s Encampment for Citizenship, Cicely Tyson referred Van Scott to actress Vinette Carroll, who mentored Van Scott in theatrical arts. Soon Van Scott was moving easily between modeling for the Wilhelmina Agency and performing; a principal dancer with the Katherine Dunham, Agnes DeMille, and Talley Beatty dance companies, she also joined the American Ballet Company. Van Scott appeared on Broadway in House of Flowers, with Pearl Bailey in 1954; Kwamina in 1961; The Great White Hope in 1968; Billy No-Name in 1970; and Rhythms of the Saints in 2003. Van Scott played the Rolls Royce Lady in 1974’s film, The Wiz.

While pursuing her career in the performing arts, Van Scott earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Goddard College, and her Ph.D. from Antioch College's Union Graduate School. For ten years Van Scott taught theater at Bucknell University’s Pennsylvania School for the Arts, and, later, Theater As Social Change at Fordham University. Van Scott became a Breadloaf Writers Scholar and the author of eight musicals including Miss Truth. Van Scott founded Dr. Glory’s Youth Theatre. Lipincott published Van Scott’s first children’s book, Baba and the Flea.

Van Scott served as coordinator for WNET’s Dance in America - Katherine Dunham: Devine Drum Beats in 2000, and produced The Katherine Dunham Gala at Carnegie Hall, and the 2003 Tribute to Fred Benjamin at Symphony Space. Van Scott was also project director and artistic coordinator for the Alvin Ailey Company’s The Magic of Katherine Dunham/I> and co-producer of the National Black Touring Circuit, with Woodie King, Jr. of New York Dance Divas. Van Scott, immortalized in bronze by Elizabeth Catlett in 1981, was awarded the first Katherine Dunham Legacy Award in 2002.

Accession Number

A2004.163

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/16/2004 |and| 9/16/2004

Last Name

Van Scott

Maker Category
Schools

Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School

North Kenwood/Oakland Elementary School

Goddard College

Ethical Culture Fieldston School

Union Institute & University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Glory

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

VAN04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Let's go get some grub.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/1/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Broccoli

Short Description

Dancer, theater professor, and stage actress Glory Van Scott (1947 - ) has acted in several plays and movies, and has written eight musicals. She has worked on many tributes to Katherine Dunham, and was awarded the first Katherine Dunham Legacy Award in 2002. She is also founded of Dr. Glory's Children's Theater.

Employment

Katherine Dunham Dance Company

Talley Beatty Company

Agnes de Mille American Heritage Dance Theatre

Wilhelmina Models

American Jewish Committee

Fordham University

Bucknell University

Dr. Glory's Youth Theatre

Favorite Color

Purple

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Glory Van Scott's interview, session one

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott explains the origin of her name

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott remembers the origins of her interest in the Dunham Technique of dance

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Glory Van Scott explains what makes the Dunham Technique of dance unique

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Glory Van Scott remembers how the Dunham Technique affected her dance career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Glory Van Scott recalls meeting Katherine Dunham for the first time

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Glory Van Scott remembers the culture of the Katherine Dunham Company in 1959 to 1960

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Glory Van Scott details the Dunham Technique of dance

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Glory Van Scott recalls her favorite memories of travelling with the Katherine Dunham Company

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Glory Van Scott remembers Katherine Dunham as dance pioneer and humanitarian

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Glory Van Scott describes Katherine Dunham's dancers

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Glory Van Scott talks about reuniting the Katherine Dunham Company at a gala in Katherine Dunham's honor at Carnegie Hall in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Glory Van Scott talks about some of HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham's choreographic pieces

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott describes lessons she learned from HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott reflects upon the legacy of HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of Glory Van Scott's interview, session two

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott lists her favorites

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott describes her mother's family background

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Glory Van Scott remembers being taught social consciousness by her mother

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Glory Van Scott recalls the murder of her cousin, Emmett Till, in 1955

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Glory Van Scott lists her siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Glory Van Scott describes her father's family background

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Glory Van Scott remembers being prevented from learning about her father's Seminole heritage

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Glory Van Scott explains her politics, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Glory Van Scott explains her politics, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott talks about her father

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott describes her parents' roles in the community of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Glory Van Scott recalls her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Glory Van Scott remembers visiting the Abraham Lincoln Center while growing up in the Oakwood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Glory Van Scott describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Glory Van Scott remembers her schooling in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Glory Van Scott recalls the genesis of Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theatre of Harlem on the night of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Glory Van Scott remembers her disposition in elementary and high school

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Glory Van Scott recalls her orientation toward religion as a child

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Glory Van Scott recalls her mother and grandmothers' relationship with Reverend Joseph H. Jackson of Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott explains her transfer from Dunbar High School in Chicago, Illinois to Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott remembers her entree into the performing arts world after attending Encampment for Citizenship in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Glory Van Scott describes her early performance career in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Glory Van Scott recalls how her successful performance career evolved

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Glory Van Scott remembers HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham's influence on her career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Glory Van Scott recalls being principal dancer for Agnes de Mille American Heritage Dance Theater and Tally Beatty's company during the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Glory Van Scott talks about learning from senior members of the Katherine Dunham Company

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Glory Van Scott describes her philosophy of art

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott recalls fighting against racist representations of African Americans in the performance art world, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott recalls fighting against racist representations of African Americans in the performance art world, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Glory Van Scott remembers appearing as a principal dancer in 'Porgy and Bess' and as the Rolls Royce Lady in 'The Wiz'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Glory Van Scott remembers the dangers of being in the public eye

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Glory Van Scott talks about the musical she wrote, 'Miss Truth'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Glory Van Scott describes her children's theater company, Dr. Glory's Children's Theatre in New York, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Glory Van Scott explains what drew her to tell Sojourner Truth's story

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Glory Van Scott talks about her tribute to September 11, 2001 rescue workers, 'Final Ladder'

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Glory Van Scott recalls a fire in her childhood home in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Glory Van Scott talks about her achievements in higher education

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Glory Van Scott explains the importance of reading and learning for children

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Glory Van Scott remembers being cast in bronze by HistoryMaker Elizabeth Catlett in 1981

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Glory Van Scott describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Glory Van Scott reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Glory Van Scott reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Glory Van Scott describes her family's opinion of her success

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Glory Van Scott reflects upon her religious beliefs

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Glory Van Scott describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Glory Van Scott narrates her photographs

DASession

1$2

DATape

1$6

DAStory

9$8

DATitle
Glory Van Scott recalls her favorite memories of travelling with the Katherine Dunham Company
Glory Van Scott explains what drew her to tell Sojourner Truth's story
Transcript
How large was the troupe when you were in it? You said it was the large (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, it was a big one. I think we probably had maybe forty people who would travel with us sometimes. You had all the dancers, and we had musicians. We had orchestra travelling with us. We had all kinds of--it was incredible.$$Can you give some of your favorite memories of, of traveling with the [Katherine] Dunham [Company]?$$(Laughter) Well, I think really my favorite is something that I did--well, it's a favorite memory. Two that stand out in my mind. One was, we were coming from Middle East and we came into Marseille [France] and we had to get to Paris [France], and there'd been a storm, and we were on one of [Aristotle] Onassis' ships, and there'd been a storm, so the pilot ship couldn't come in and get our ship and bring us into port in time for us to get off the ship and get on the train that was to take us from Marseille to Paris, so we were late and of course the train, the normal train that was going to Paris, one train had left, there was another train there, and it's getting ready to leave, so when we finally got off--and we were all seasick, because we'd been in a great big storm--they told us--our manager had a big discussion with the ticket taker or whatever the station master and insisted, "We have to get on that train," because what are you gonna do with all these people? They've got to get into Paris tonight and so they can sleep because we can't stand up in Marseille. There no hotels rooms here, what are we gonna do? So, they arranged that, and so he said to us, "All right," he said, "run over and go into that train over there." So, of course we all started running that direction to go into the train over there, and someone screamed, "It's not that train; it's the one over to the left." So you have all about forty people suddenly swerving and running to the left, and I remember thinking, my God it's like a herd of cattle, we're just running, running, running. We get on the train; we're hot; we're tired. So we get on this train, we sit down, and someone says, "Okay, don't worry," because we were hungry. When we're about ten minutes out with this train, it stops at a little weigh station, and you can get off and get hot chocolate, get a sandwich, whatever. So everybody is, "Oh yeah great, great, great." So we get out to that point, I pile off the train like everybody else go in there, and we're getting hot chocolate, of course everybody is trying to get it at once, all of a sudden the train started to pull off. People scream, "Oh, the train's leaving!" We turned around; I ran out there and to the right of me was pure darkness, to the left of me was pure darkness; there's nothing. Yura [ph.], which is one of the dancer/singers was on the train said, "Jump, sister, jump!" He sticks his hand out--I flipped a train. I had on slippers and everything else, and I could have gone under the train, could have been clickety, click, click goodnight, goodbye, but I flipped a train. I can't believe it, you know, to me that was movie time, but this was reality, and of course someone pulled the emergency cord, and they stopped the train, and so we had at that point an Australian manager was filling in for one of our other managers, and he was screaming, "Everybody get in those rooms, don't come out!" And he had to pay like a five hundred dollar fine and he was furious with us, but I mean, what, you couldn't leave [HistoryMaker] Ms. [Katherine] Dunham's company out there in the middle of nowhere. So, we piled in and so that's one of the ones. And the other was that, right before that one happened, is we came from the Middle East, is that when we got to Lebanon you had to declare a religion, and there was a big form you had to fill out. I refused to declare a religion. I drew a line through where it said religion. So, of course they looked at everybody's forms, and they see mine and the line drawn through, and they decided, "Well, she must be Jewish because she's not declaring a religion, and she drew a line through." So they gave it back to the manager and said, "She has to declare a religion or the company cannot come into Lebanon." So, we're in a holding pattern, and I'm sitting up there. I am furious, and I'm saying, "No, I don't have to declare a religion; that's none of their business. I don't want to declare a religion; I don't have to declare a religion." So, we're sitting and sitting and sitting, finally they said, "Well if you don't, the company is just going to sit here. There's nothing we can do." So, I thought about it, and I said, "Okay, all right, I'll put down Ethical Culture." Now, I did put down Ethical Culture. Ethical Culture is a humanist religion which was started by Felix Adler, who was a Jew. So there it is, I put Ethical Culture. They had no idea. So, okay, she put a religion down, and I went through, and so the company could go. But, that was my protest that I do not and should not have to tell you what religion I am; that's nobody's business. So, I remember that very well that I had, the company could not move until I decided to declare a religion.$Something I neglected to ask you when we were talking about Sojourner [Truth], the 'Miss Truth' play, is that, what is it about Sojourner Truth or what particular thing about, you know, her drew you to her story?$$Because she has the strength and the fire that my grandmother [Matilda Stackhouse Brown] had, and I think that's what, I mean when she would stand there, that she could stand when they said that she must--she was, you know, about six feet tall, so she must be a man, and so they, the racists said, "Well, go tell her that she's a man, and she won't come out here and talk before people," at one of the speaking engagements that she had. They wanted to get rid of her, so they figured to say, "She's a man," or, "She would dare bare her breasts out here because she doesn't have any; it's a man," and therefore she won't come out and, and preach, as she could, against slavery, and so she pulled herself together and came out there, and that's the famous speech she has, 'Ain't I A Woman,' what's she done, but I wrote, written another speech that I do for that. And she could bare her breasts. She could stand there, and they could not silence her. And then you know just--so it's that power that she knew that she had. It's that spirit that she knew that she had, and, "Yes, you might shoot me while I'm here," but it's like it's that thing that I feel like, you know, my God if I'm doing something in civil rights, I'm doing something I believe in, and if I get killed in the process--and what I came to understand in terms of the '60s [1960s]: I won't be the first person or the last to die for what he or she believes, so therefore removes that fear. It just takes it away, and you're right, you're going, you're right in what you're saying and right in what you believe, and you can stand there and do that. Yes, you may kill my body, you will never ever kill my mind. Somebody will have still left some of those thoughts about how we really can live as brothers in this society. Somebody will continue it; somebody will. You will hear it; it's there.

Paul Carter Harrison

Playwright, professor and African American theatre expert, Paul Carter Harrison was born March 1, 1936 in New York City, New York. His parents, Thelma Inez Harrison and Paul Randolph Harrison were from North and South Carolina, respectively, with backgrounds rooted in the Garvey Movement, the A.M.E. Church and Gullah culture. Harrison’s brother, Kenneth, was the first black basketball player at Villanova University. Harrison attended P.S. 113 and graduated from Commerce High School in 1952. At New York University in Greenwich Village, sixteen-year-old Harrison met cutting edge artists, writers and musicians including Billy Dee Williams, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Ted Joans and Thelonius Monk. He transferred to Indiana University in 1953, where he met “Sweet” Charlie Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and David Baker. He was awarded a B.A. in psychology in 1957. Returning to New York, Harrison earned an M.A. in psychology and phenomenology from the New School for Social Research in 1962.

Shelving his plans for a Ph.D. in 1962, Harrison spent seven years in Spain and the Netherlands, honing his writing and experimenting in theatre. In Amsterdam he met students from Surinam with whom he dialogued about the drama of African ritual. Harrison wrote a film script, Stranger On The Square, and two plays: The Experimental Leader and Dialogue from the Opposition.
From 1968 to 1970, Harrison taught theater at Howard University, where his students included: Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Linda Goss, Petronia Bailey, Clinton T. Davis and Pearl Cleage. At the State University of California at Sacramento, 1970-72, he wrote and directed Tabernacle and directed Melvin Van Peebles’ Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death. In 1973, his play, The Great McDaddy, produced by the Negro Ensemble Company, won an Obie Award. From 1972 to 1976, he taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is now professor emeritus and wrote movie scripts for Lord Shango (1975) and Youngblood (1978). In 1976, Harrison was hired as professor and writer in residence at the Theatre Center of Chicago’s Columbia College and served until his retirement in 2002. While in Chicago, Harrison directed ETA’s acclaimed production of Marsha Leslie’s The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman (1996) and Columbia’s Doxology (2002).

Harrison’s books include: The Drama of Nommo and Totem Voices: Plays From the Black World Repertory (1972), Kuntu Drama: Plays From the African Continuum (1974), In The Shadow of the Great White Way (intro 1989), Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company (1995), and Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora (2003). Harrison lives in New York City and looks forward to annual vacations in Spain with his daughter.

Accession Number

A2004.160

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/14/2004

Last Name

Harrison

Maker Category
Middle Name

Carter

Schools

Commerce High School

P.S. 113 Anthony J. Pranzo

New York University

Indiana University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Paul

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

HAR13

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Ibiza, Spain

Favorite Quote

Like That!

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/1/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Playwright and theater professor Paul Carter Harrison (1936 - ) is an expert on African American theatre and has published books including Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company (1995), and Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora (2003).

Employment

Howard University

Columbia College Chicago

University of Massachusetts

Favorite Color

Oxford Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Paul Carter Harrison's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls his grandfather's burial ceremony in the African Methodist Episcopal church

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls his paternal grandmother's apartment rental business in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his mother's personality and her career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his mother's second marriage at the age of seventy-seven

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his childhood memories of his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls traveling to the South to visit his mother's family in Wilmington, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his and his brother's early experiences with discrimination as teenagers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls encountering prejudice at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his early educational experiences and cultural influences in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls the artists that he befriended at New York University in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison shares a story about a youthful romance derailed by his lack of career plans

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about an influential music teacher at Public School 113 in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison reflects on the importance of embedding teachers within a larger community

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about playing the trumpet in a drum and bugle corps during his childhood in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls playing basketball on the playgrounds as a teenager in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his brother's experiences on the basketball team at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about the decorum for entering new territory that he learned in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the musical prodigies he encountered while living in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls a racist incident in his physiology class at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls confronting a physiology professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana for her racist language

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about experiencing racial discrimination while living in Indiana

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his reason for attending Commerce High School in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his social life and influences at Commerce High School in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison explains how his interest in theater began in New York, New York during the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about what he learned studying psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about how living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for a year changed his philosophy and writing style

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison explains why he chose to return to the United States to teach at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about the inspiration for his documentary film 'Stranger on the Square'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about being exposed to new ideas as a professor of theatre at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about how African roots influence the black community in America

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison offers his perspective on the history of the Afro-Surinamese people

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about how African rhythms and traditions are manifested in African American culture

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison gives his perspective on what makes ritual powerful in the African tradition

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about what he means by the term Nommo

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls learning about the culture of the South while teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the plays he wrote while working at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison explains his decision to leave Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his directing work while teaching at Sacramento State College in Sacramento, California

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls the creation and production of his play 'The Great MacDaddy'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his tenure as chairman of the theatre department at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his current theatrical and literary projects

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison offers his perspective on what defines black theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the Yoruban influences in August Wilson's play 'King Hedley II,' pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison describes the Yoruban influences in August Wilson's play 'King Hedley II,' pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison names important African American theatre figures

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison offers examples of plays that define black theatre, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison offers examples of plays that define black theatre, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about the lack of support for the African American theater community today

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about addressing the concerns of African American youth

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison explains how the theater has the potential to create positive social change in the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison recalls collaborating on the premiere production of 'The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Paul Carter Harrison elaborates on his preference for spare, open designs in theatrical productions

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Paul Carter Harrison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Paul Carter Harrison reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Paul Carter Harrison reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Paul Carter Harrison talks about his daughter, wife, and brother-in-law

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Paul Carter Harrison describes how he wants to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Paul Carter Harrison narrates his photographs

DASession

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DATape

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DATitle
Paul Carter Harrison shares a story about a youthful romance derailed by his lack of career plans
Paul Carter Harrison talks about being exposed to new ideas as a professor of theatre at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Transcript
I remember, when I was nineteen years old and I was going out with a woman who had been married. And she was twenty-one, and she was now no longer married. She was back home--West Indian woman from Jamaica. And I was going out with this woman briefly 'cause I mean I met her, and after seeing her the second time, she said, you must come to my house and pick me up, up in Harlem [New York, New York]. And I get there. Her father sat me down. As soon as I get there, he says, "You sit down, sir, have a seat." And I sat down while waiting for her. And he came and said, "What's up? What are you studying in school [New York University, New York, New York]?" I said, "Liberal arts." He said, "Now what is that?" I said, "What, you know, it's liberal arts." He said, "Yeah, but what do you want to do?" I said, "I don't know." I mean, this man took me around the horn about how am I preparing a life, and I understood it after the fact. What he wants to know is, you're going to date my daughter, what are you doing with your life? So, second time, I went up to pick her up the following week, and he took me through the same drill. He wanted to know how was I preparing my life. And I could not tell him. He said, well, I mean, I mean after, and at the end of that, well, he didn't have to tell me anything else. I even told myself something. I knew I could not go out with this woman. I could not go out with her any longer 'cause I was not going to go through this drill. She was looking for--he was looking for a husband for her. She had just finished one relationship. She's twenty-one years old. He wanted her to have a husband. That was not going to be me, particularly, I was only nineteen years old. I mean, I'm just, you know, a kid. But the--but I understood it after, way after the fact what he was doing. First, it was a nuisance factor--this kind of interrogation. But you understood in terms of the, in the terms of the family values, particularly of these people from the Caribbean, and what they know. Their kind of--guarded sense of, you know, in this very protective sense, how to get their children involved in the United States and, you know, you just don't let them have any kind of random kind of contact with the world. You want to make sure you guide them a certain kind of way. I understood that way, way, much, much later on. It was much--it was just a nuisance factor for me at that time. And a very lovely girl. But I had to let it go. I could not respond to those questions. I had no idea what I was going to be doing.$Those forces lined themselves up in such a way that I get back into the United States, and I--then [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther] King [Jr.] is killed. I'm very, very moved by it and moved by the next day--the presence of the troops in the streets of Washington, D.C., the soldiers, and the fires that are still settling. And I, this is 1967, right, or '68 [1968] rather?$$Sixty-eight [1968], yeah.$$Sixty-eight [1968]. And then I realize this is happening. I meet--I go to, it's very strange. I go up to the, I get in a cab, I go up to the gate of Howard University [Washington, D.C.]. It's closed, locked down because of the riots. And I--the door, the man is meeting me outside, going to meet me outside, come to the gate, open up the gate. The man who comes and to meet me is a white man. He opens up the gate. He says, "You're [HistoryMaker] Paul Carter Harrison?" Yes. He lets me in and closes the gate. He--I follow him and he go inside, and we sit down in his office. It turns out he is not a white man, but he is a black man who is the chairman of the department, "Beanie" Butcher [James W. Butcher, Jr.] (laughter). Now, my first reaction is, I'm on this plantation, the gate opens up (laughter). I'm directed by a white guy who leads me into the office, and the irony is he's not a black guy--a white guy after all--but he's really a black guy who's the head of the--chair, he's the chairman of the theatre. And this guy induces me to come to Howard. And I said, "Absolutely, I'll come here," you know. And that was the beginning of my new transformation. I came to Howard. I encountered this incredible, vital, group of young people who were in the midst of the Black Arts Movement, a new consciousness. My students included, you know, Phylicia Rashad; her sister, Debbie [Allen]; Clinton Turner Davis, the director, who's now a major director. It included [HistoryMaker] Pearl Cleage who's a major writer. These are my students--they inspired me. I--they tell me I gave them some inspiration, but they were the ones who compelled me to stay and to look deeper. They, for example, Petronia Paley, an actress in New York [New York], she and her, her friend who's Linda Goss, who is now, who's the wife of Clay Goss, the playwright, who was one of my students--they're both my students.$$Yeah, she's a storyteller, yeah, storyteller, yeah.$$She's a storyteller. So Linda Goss and Petronia Paley used to come to my office once a week with new albums from John Coltrane (laughter). And they would just simply say, have you heard this, have you heard this, have you heard this? It was a kind of this thing they would to pull my head around a certain kind of way, you know (laughter). And that meant, it was, it was done like, "Oh, hello, how are you today, Mr. Harrison? Have you heard this?" Then I began to invite the local poets into the classroom with them, with them, and then began to and, at a certain moment, then I began to--of course, I was reading, introducing into my lectures, some of the African philosophy. So I said, the way to do this, to get this down properly, I need to just write a book. And that's when I began to draft and begin to the book, 'The Drama of Nomno,' which has become 'The Drama of Nommo,' [Paul Carter Harrison] N-O-M-N-O, M-M-O, which began to set the whole aesthetic approach to the new approaches to the aesthetics of African American theatre.

Erma L. Clanton

Playwright, lyricist and teacher Erma Clanton was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 5, 1923, the fourth of eight children. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Clanton went to Alabama State University in Montgomery, where she earned a B.S. in 1945. She would later go on to earn a master's of theater and communication from the University of Memphis in 1969 and a doctor of humane letters from the Tennessee School of Religion in 2001.

After completing her bachelor's degree, Clanton went to work teaching English and speech at Melrose High School in Memphis, where she remained until 1969. During that time, she was actively involved in several productions performed by her students. In 1970, Clanton became an associate professor at the University of Memphis, where she taught theater and communications. Also during this time, Clanton began creating her own work, with her first piece, Roots, Rhymes & Righteous Times (An Evening of Soul) performed at the University of Memphis in 1971 and continuing under her direction until 1991. She went on to create and direct many more shows over the years, including Listen Children, God's Trombones, Black Pearls of the World, and Gifted & Black - On the Right Track. Along with her creation and direction of the shows, Clanton also writes original music. Clanton retired from the University of Memphis in 1991, yet continued to direct her new shows both in Memphis and elsewhere. In 1997 and 1998, she worked with gifted at-risk students at Hamilton High School, and then in 1999 Clanton taught one semester at Le Moyne Owen College.

In addition to her creative exploits, Clanton is active in a number of organizations, including serving as the chairperson of the Evening of Soul Foundation, a board member of Stax/Soulsville USA at the Museum of American Soul Music, and is a twenty-five-year member of the NAACP. She has received the Dr. Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award from the University of Memphis and the Bronze Jubilee Award from PBS Radio & TV.

Accession Number

A2003.145

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/26/2003

Last Name

Clanton

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Organizations
Schools

Booker T. Washington High School

LaRose Elementary School

Alabama State University

Columbia University

University of Memphis

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days

First Name

Erma

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

CLA06

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth, Singers

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Youth, Singers

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, New York

Favorite Quote

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

2/5/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Peach Cobbler

Short Description

Playwright, high school english teacher, and theater professor Erma L. Clanton (1923 - ) wrote plays that showed in Memphis for over thirty years.

Employment

Melrose High School

University of Memphis

Hamilton High School

LeMoyne-Owen College

Favorite Color

Blue, Teal, Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Erma L. Clanton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her paternal family roots and her father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Erma L. Clanton recalls lessons her parents taught her as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Erma L. Clanton describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her experience attending LaRose Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her mentors at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton recalls winning a scholarship to Alabama State University at an oratorical contest

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton remembers attending Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton explains how a college event influenced her musical tastes

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her interest in theater

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the history of oratory in African American communities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Erma L. Clanton talks about theater and her extracurricular activities at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Erma L. Clanton talks about teaching at Melrose High School in the Orange Mound neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton talks about studying theater at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton talks about attending a Broadway performance of 'Tea and Sympathy' in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton recalls meeting George Washington Carver and attending a performance by Paul Robeson at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton talks about teaching English and speech at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton talks about African American vernacular English and the oratorical traditions in black churches

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton talks about completing her master's degree and being hired by University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about her motivations for 'An Evening of Soul'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the development of her production 'An Evening of Soul'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the musical influences for 'An Evening of Soul'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton describes the songs in 'An Evening of Soul,' pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton describes the songs in 'An Evening of Soul,' pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton talks about the thirtieth-anniversary performance of 'An Evening of Soul'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Erma L. Clanton describes an Easter pageant she produces for her church

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Erma L. Clanton talks about theater productions at her church [New Sardis Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee]

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Erma L. Clanton talks about HistoryMaker Isaac Hayes

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Erma L. Clanton describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Erma L. Clanton considers those she influenced

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Erma L. Clanton reflects upon what she would have done differently

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Erma L. Clanton reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Erma L. Clanton describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Erma L. Clanton narrates her photographs

DASession

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DAStory

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DATitle
Erma L. Clanton talks about her motivations for 'An Evening of Soul'
Erma L. Clanton talks about the development of her production 'An Evening of Soul'
Transcript
But still it was just getting there. Now, you know [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther] King [Jr.] was killed in '68 [1968] so it was- wasn't too far away from all that bad stuff, you know, and so naturally when I went into theater and started doing the shows, it was a reflection of how it was, you know, this--there was a feeling you know that the soul was born out of, the kind of frustration and feeling that we had gone through. I think that's why it was so popular.$$Okay, now this, you're talking about the play 'An Evening of Soul' ['Roots, Rhymes & Righteous Times (An Evening of Soul)']? Now what was the premise of the play and what was--what happened? I mean what was the--$$Okay, so once I was at Memphis State [University, Memphis, Tennessee], now known as the University of Memphis [Memphis, Tennessee], one of the--one of the--one of my duties was to teach a course called "Speech for the Classroom Teachers," and along with public speaking, a course in Reader's Theater and I didn't really have a theater class that I taught 'cause I was really in communication, but I found out that when I was teaching "Speech for the Classroom Teachers" that most of my students were white young girls and young men who were going to be teaching in--to our city kids and they knew nothing which is natural. They knew nothing about the cultural background of teaching black children and the more I taught them, the more I understood that they didn't know, and so I was trying to teach and yet entertain and yet, and I think I did do both you know. That was one of the things and then so along with this particular class there was a thing called a lab course that went with it. And in this lab course I had them to--we had just done 'Hair' at our school at the university and that was the beginning--$$The play, the play 'Hair'--(simultaneous)--$$The play 'Hair.' And that was really the beginning of black and white people getting together on a stage in Memphis [Tennessee] that I can remember, and so it made a lot of media--got a lot of media attention, and so what I decided to do about a year or two later was to organize some kind of production that would kinda talk about the experience through music and song and readings, and in this lab course they had, I had the students to--as I said now, excuse me let me go back. When 'Hair' was done, there was some music in 'Hair' that the words were kinda you know, they were saying a lot of things in 'Hair' and one girl was telling--one of the students was saying that her grandmother was patting her feet--she liked this particular song and the song was really saying a lot of things--were kind of vulgar, you know--$Tell us about 'An Evening of Soul' ['Roots, Rhymes & Righteous Times (An Evening of Soul)']. You know, they tried 'Hair' and I, I, I think from what I read none of the black students got, got, got in 'Hair' or they were kinda or they wanted something to do.$$They wanted something to do but they didn't--they had a few blacks you know and a good--they were talented kids and it was nice.$$And 'Hair" wasn't really an expression of what you know what black folks felt.$$No, 'Hair' was a whole different ball game.$$Everybody took their clothes off at the end (laughter)?$$Yeah, they did, but I don't think they did it at the University [of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee].$$Okay.$$No, I don't think that they allowed it--$$This is the Bible Belt so--$$That's right, they didn't do that but, but it was a beginning of integration of acting--theater I would say, but 'Evening of Soul' as I was saying I had to let this class do a lab on the music that 'Hair' was doing. That's how it came up this girl was saying, "My mama was--my grandmother was just clapping her--you know stomping her feet to this music. If she had known what they were saying she would have had a fit." I said, "Well you know that's true." I said, "A lot of the songs that we sing we don't--people don't pay attention to the words." I said, "So what I would like for you to do," and this is just the whole class, black and white though, I said, "I want you to find me the lyrics of the blues, find me the lyrics of popular music that they are singing today and just, let's just see what's out there," and that was just an assignment. And so they did, and they came back and they were--it was just really funny because they said, "I didn't know this was saying this or whatever." And so I got the idea, well why don't I just do a production on just lyrics, you know just words, use them as a Readers Theater, and instead of just using all kind of music just use black music and let that be--and divide it into certain categories, and so that's what I did. I divided it into slavery, which is the beginning--in the beginning and 'cause that was not words, we actually used the music for that and then I had the blues and I had passion, songs of passion, songs on the blues, and songs of celebration and [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.] had just you know, and I took all of this and I put it together as a Readers Theater, but then I met some young--a young lady by the name of Deborah at that time Deborah Manning, Deborah Manning-Thomas now, and she tried out and she had this voice, this unusual voice, very beautiful, big voice, you know, it's good, just--wonderful singer, and that changed my mind about keeping it just on a Readers Theater level. I said oh, well then I can include some music in it, and so it just went on and went on until finally it just became just a production all about the black experience, and so then the categories of course were what was so interesting because you're talking about--you're teaching but you're entertaining and then and you got good--I mean the best talent 'cause these kids hadn't had a platform at all to do anything. So I put an article in the school paper and I said "Students interested in music, especially black music, gospel music to see Ms. Clanton," and I told them the time and everything, and I figured you'd get about five or six, ten at the most. Just all the students, all the black students who were there just about came and tried out and of course I couldn't use all of them, but I did use twenty-two of them. I used twenty-two and they were all good. Some of them weren't that--were weak, but and from that came 'Evening of Soul,' and it grew from one night, one night--it was supposed to have been one night because see I wasn't a theater teacher and I didn't--I had not planned a night, so therefore I only asked them to let me use one night in the little theater and so what I did I contacted the critic, the main critic, media critic, entertainment critic and told him and he came and we did it that one night and it--that was that article I was telling you about that was on the wall, and it just--it was just--I don't know what happened, it just blew--just blew--blew everybody out of the room. It was just wonderful, and so then after the article came--the article was saying that--the critic was saying that it has to be done over. We cannot have it one night. Everybody must see this so by this time the university now is taking note and so they called me in, and they said, "Well Erma you've got to do it again." So I said, "Okay," so we decided to do it in the spring. This was November of '71 [1971].