Skip to main content

National Center of Afro-American Artists records

 Collection
Identifier: M042

Scope and Content Note

The collection documents the founding, administration, financial operations (including the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists), and personnel of the Center; the Center's active involvement in the African American and arts communities through its performances, ensembles, and events; and other national and local organizations related to African American culture in theater, music, dance, and the visual arts. The collection spans 1924-1998 (bulk dates, 1970-1979).  Early material relates to information files on renowned performers, including Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, and Katherine Dunham.  A series of unexplained arson fires at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.  Most of the records from the 1970s have survived; however, some records from the 1980s did not.

A highlight of the collection is the visual material which includes photographs, videotapes, films, and posters.  These materials largely document Elma Lewis' personal and professional life, and performances, ensembles, events, and exhibits produced by the National Center of Afro-American Artists, the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, or the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.

For materials documenting the administration of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts prior to 1973, see the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts records (M43).

Dates

  • 1924-1998

Creator

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Founded by Elma Ina Lewis in 1968 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the National Center of Afro-American Artists was established in response to concerns raised at a conference of African American artists who met in Chicago in the mid-1960s, stemming from the lack of a comprehensive, national institutional center for African American artists.  As a Boston-based, professional, multi-disciplinary arts organization, the National Center of Afro-American Artists was created to fill this void.  The National Center of Afro-American Artists became not only a regional platform but also a national one for African American visual and performing artists.  In 1969 the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists was established as a division of the National Center of Afro-American Artists to educate, promote, exhibit, and collect African, Caribbean, and Afro American fine arts.  In 1973 the National Center of Afro-American Artists brought under its wing the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, which became the teaching division of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.  Founded by Elma Lewis in 1950, the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts offered classes in art, dance, drama, costuming, and music to hundreds of youth and adult students annually.  During a time of political and racial strife, Lewis sought to bring peace and unity through the School's Playhouse in the Park program, a summer theater in Franklin Park which began in 1966 and featured Duke Ellington and other celebrities.  The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts closed in 1990 after many years of financial difficulty.  As part of its administrative duties, the National Center of Afro-American Artists oversaw the public relations, financial, and development activities of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, and the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.

Since its founding, the National Center of Afro-American Artists has had a wide-reaching influence across the United States and overseas through projects with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts); international partnerships with Senegal, Ivory Coast, Barbados, and Haiti; and the annual Christmas musical, Black Nativity, which premiered in 1970. 

Extent

25.50 cubic feet (37 containers, 8 flat file folders, 1 reel)

Overview

The National Center of Afro-American Artists was founded by Elma Ina Lewis in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1968. The Center's founding was a response to concerns over a lack of a comprehensive, national institutional center for African American artists.

Overview

The collection spans 1924-1998 and documents the founding, administration, financial operations, and personnel of the Center; the Center's active involvement in the African American and arts communities.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into 6 series: 1. Administration; 2. Financial and Fund Raising; 3. Continuing Programs; 4. Events; 5. Public Relations; and 6. Information Files.

Physical Location

69/1-4, FF4/D5-6

Related Archival Materials:

Elma Ina Lewis papers (M038)
Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts (M043)
Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (M044)

The Archives and Special Collections Department capture the website content of the National Center of Afro American Artists, which is accessible at: http://wayback.archive-it.org/1747/*/http://www.ncaaa.org/

Bibliography

  • Background: Historical Summaries, Box 11
Title
Finding aid for the National Center of Afro-American Artists Records
Author
Finding aid prepared by Michelle Maing
Date
August 1999
Language of description
Description is in English.
Sponsor
This collection was processed with partial funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US