A Finding Aid to the Jeff Donaldson Papers, 1918-2005, bulk 1960s-2005, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.donajeff
Creators:
Donaldson, Jeff, 1932-2004
Dates:
1918-2005
bulk 1960s-2005
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
12.5 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of African American artist and educator Jeff Donaldson measure 12.5 linear feet and date from 1918 to 2005, with the bulk of the records dating from the 1960s to 2005. The collection documents Donaldson's work as a professional artist, his academic career at Howard University, and his leadership role in the Black Arts Movement through biographical material, a small amount of professional and personal correspondence, personal business records, writings by Donaldson and others, research files, artist files, sound recordings of interviews Donaldson conducted with over 40 artists, teaching files, exhibition files, printed material, and photographs. Also found are detailed records of his professional activities and leadership roles in AfriCOBRA, CONFABA, FESTAC, and the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), including documentation on the Wall of Respect mural.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of African American artist and educator Jeff Donaldson measure 12.5 linear feet and date from 1918 to 2005, with the bulk of the records dating from the 1960s to 2005. The collection documents Donaldson's work as a professional artist, his academic career at Howard University, and his leadership role in the Black Arts Movement through biographical material, a small amount of professional and personal correspondence, personal business records, writings by Donaldson and others, research files, artist files, sound recordings of interviews Donaldson conducted with over 40 artists, teaching files, exhibition files, printed material, and photographs. Also found are detailed records of his professional activities and leadership roles in AfriCOBRA, CONFABA, FESTAC, and the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), including documentation on the Wall of Respect mural.
Biographical material includes biographical summaries and resumes detailing Donaldson's career, and documents such as his birth certificate, veteran and education records, and passports.
The correspondence series includes 0.3 linear feet of letters to and from colleagues, friends, and educational and art organizations. This correspondence relates primarily to Donaldson's professional activities. Also found are one folder of letters each from Gwendolyn Brooks and Hoyt Fuller. The bulk of Donaldson's professional correspondence can be found in other series.
Interviews consist of transcripts and sound recordings of interviews conducted by Donaldson for research for his dissertation on the Harlem Renaissance, with more than forty artists including Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Bob Blackburn, Nancy Cox, Mildred Howard, Suzanne Jackson, Senga Nengudi, Mary Lovelace O'Neal, James Phillips, and Lamonte Westmoreland. This series also includes two transcripts of interviews with Donaldson.
Writings by Donaldson include articles, catalog essays, notes and draft excerpts from his dissertation, and draft lectures on TransAfrican art.
Artist files were compiled by Donaldson and relate to various projects including his dissertation, his teaching, and his involvement with FESTAC and other projects. Artists represented include Romare Bearden, John Howard, Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley, James Phillips, Hale Woodruff, and others. The files contain scattered correspondence, writings and notes, printed material, and photos of artists and artwork.
Exhibition files document Donaldson's involvement with the TransAfrican Art Invitational Exhibition (1997-1988) at the Orlando Museum of Art through correspondence and other planning documents, catalog essays, artist records, printed material, and photographs. The series also documents solo and group exhibitions of Donaldson's artwork from 1980-2000, and includes correspondence, printed material, and photographs.
Professional files provide a rich and substantial record of Donaldson's leadership roles in the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA), the Conference on the Functional Aspects of Black Art (CONFABA), the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), and the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC). The records are particularly extensive for AfriCOBRA and FESTAC, and include correspondence, planning documents, financial records, meeting records, printed material, and photographs. Additional professional files document Donaldson's involvement with other committees and conferences, including his role as guest editor for the International Review of African American Art.
Research files provide additional material related to Donaldson's dissertation and his teaching career. Of particular note is correspondence from the 1940s-1950s between the Harmon Foundation and the Department of Art at Howard University, as well as notes and a photograph of Harlem Renaissance artists outside 306 West 41st Street where Charles Alston taught art classes.
Teaching files document Donaldson's role as art department chairman and subsequently dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University, through correspondence and employment records. The files also include his lecture notebooks and other course documentation.
Personal business records document Donaldson's personal art collection, as well as appraisals, sales, and consignments of his own artwork. Printed material includes announcements and catalogs for exhibitions of Donaldson's artwork and the artwork of others, as well as news clippings compiled by him on subjects of interest, particularly African American artists and racial injustice.
Photographs are primarily slides of Donaldson's artwork produced from the 1950s to 2000, but also include some photos of Donaldson, including contact sheets and photographs of late career portraits, and photos of Donaldson with his wife, Arnicia. One set of photos documents a visit to Uganda in 1974, where Donaldson and his travel companions met with Idi Amin.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 12 series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1954-2004 (0.3 Linear feet; Box 1, OV 14)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1957-2004 (0.3 Linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 3: Interviews, 1959-1997 (1.7 Linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
  • Series 4: Writings, 1963-2003 (0.5 Linear feet; Box 3)
  • Series 5: Artist Files, 1928-2003 (1.1 Linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
  • Series 6: Exhibition Files, circa 1966-2000 (1.3 Linear feet; Boxes 4-6)
  • Series 7: Professional Files, 1960s-2005 (5.2 Linear feet; Boxes 6-11, OV 14)
  • Series 8: Research Files, 1930-2001 (0.4 Linear feet; Box 11)
  • Series 9: Teaching Files, 1961-2002 (0.6 Linear feet; Boxes 11-12)
  • Series 10: Personal Business Records, 1966-2001 (0.2 Linear feet; Box 12)
  • Series 11: Printed Material, 1918-2003 (0.5 linear feet; Box 12)
  • Series 12: Photographs and Personal Sound Recordings, 1956-2003 (0.4 Linear feet; Box 13)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Jeff Donaldson (1932-2004) was an African American artist and educator who worked in Chicago and Washington, D.C. He was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and promoted the "TransAfrican" aesthetic.
Donaldson was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in studio art in 1954. He briefly served in the U.S. Army and taught art in a Chicago high school from 1957 to 1965. In 1963, he received his M.S. in Art Education from Illinois Institute of Technology, and taught at Northwestern University while pursuing his Ph.D. there. He received his Ph.D. in art history in 1974 with a dissertation on young African American artists working in Harlem during the 1930s. In 1970, Donaldson became director of the Howard University Art Gallery and chairman of the art department. From 1985 to 1998, he served first as associate dean and then dean of the Howard University, College of Fine Arts.
As a leading member of the Black Arts Movement, Donaldson co-founded the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Visual Art Workshop which created the influential Wall of Respect mural in 1967 on the southside of Chicago. He also co-founded the AfriCOBRA artist collaborative in 1968 of which he was a lifelong member. Donaldson promoted the TransAfrican art aesthetic through his leadership role in FESTAC, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, held in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. He was guest editor for a TransAfrican focused issue of the International Review of African American Art which coincided with the TransAfrican Art Invitation Exhibition he curated at the Orlando Museum of Art in 1997.
Donaldson also worked as a professional painter, exhibiting in over a hundred and fifty group and solo exhibitions, and wrote critical essays for several arts publications. He regularly served as an exhibition juror, conference presenter, and served on advisory committees and as a board member for many arts and African American organizations.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid was prepared by Erin Kinhart in 2016-2017. Full processing and updating of the finding aid was completed by Stephanie Ashley, and the bulk of the collection was digitized, in 2018.
Existence and Location of Copies
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2018 and is available on the Archives of American Art website. Materials which have not been digitized include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have only had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages digitized.
Some of the sound recordings in the collection were digitized for research access and are available at Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the original reels for the archival notations on them, but original reels are not available for playback due to fragility.
Author
Erin Kinhart and Stephanie Ashley
Sponsor
Funding for the digitization of the Jeff Donaldson papers was provided by the Walton Family Foundation.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated 2015 by Jameela Donaldson, Jeff Donaldson's daughter.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Use of archival audiovisual recordings and born-digital records with no duplicate access copies requires advance notice.
Conditions Governing Use
The Jeff Donaldson papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Jeff Donaldson papers, 1918-2005, bulk 1960s-2005. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Educators -- Washington (D.C.) Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black Arts movement Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American painters Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Illinois -- Chicago Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Washington (D.C.) Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Howard University -- Faculty Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
AFRICOBRA (Artists' group) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Organization of Black American Culture Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Conference on the Functional Aspects of Black Art Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/