- Collection ID:
Simpson, George Eaton, 1904-1998
- Physical Description:
Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
The collection documents George Eaton Simpson's fieldwork in Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Nigeria from 1936-1964. There are 704 images in several formats including negatives, prints, and slides. The photographs were primarily made by Simpson, but a few were made by Frederic Ramsey, Jr. Ramsey's prints are stamped on verso with his name. Many prints and slides are annotated by Simpson.
The collection also includes a few reprints of articles based on Simpson's field work and words and musical transcription from Savalou Ricourt, a musician of Port au Prince in 1937.
The collection is arranged into six series:
- 1. Haiti, 1936-1937
- 2. Jamaica, 1953, 1957
- 3. Trinidad, 1960
- 4. Nigeria, 1964
- 5. Lantern slides, undated
- 6. Publications, 1940-1987
George Eaton Simpson (1904-1998) was an anthropologist whose focus was the various social aspects of Caribbean religions. He wrote over 60 articles and books, and taught sociology and anthropology at Oberlin College from 1947-1971.
Born in Knoxville, Iowa, Simpson received his B.S. from Coe College in 1926, his M.A. from the University of Missouri in 1927, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1934. In 1947 he began teaching at Oberlin College in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. In addition to teaching classes, Simpson served on numerous committees and as department chair.
Simpson conducted fieldwork in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad, and Nigeria. He focused primarily on Caribbean religions such as Vodun in Haiti, Rastafarianism in Jamaica, and the Spiritual Baptists in Trinidad. His fieldwork has been documented in numerous articles and books, including "The Vodun Service in Northern Haiti", "The Shango Cult in Nigeria and Trinidad", and Black Religions in the New World. He occasionally collaborated on articles with fellow anthropologists Joseph G. Moore and J. Milton Yinger. He also served as a visiting professor at several leading universities.
He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Wellcome Medal for Anthropological Research, the Anisfield-Wolf Award in Race Relations (with J. Milton Yinger), Doctor of Humane Letters – Oberlin College, and Doctor of Humane Letters – Coe College.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the National Anthropoligical Archives by George E. Simpson in 1992.
Existence and Location of Copies note
Digital surrogates is available online.
Not all of the negatives have associated prints, and not all the prints have associated negatives. There are a few copy negatives of prints and slides in the collection. Many prints and slides are annotated; however some contain conflicting information.
While the lantern slides contain images that for the most part are duplicates, they are listed separately and arranged according to numbered lists included with them. This is done mainly because lantern slides were predominately used for presentations and therefore had a specific purpose for Simpson.
The materials were received in numerous packets, both labeled and unlabeled, and organized by location and format. Many of the sequences were not in order, and often separated into numerous packets. None of Simpson's notes from his fieldwork remain, so arrangement is based on the information available, primarily the print annotations and his published works. The collection was processed by Adam Fielding, 2010.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use note
Conditions Governing Access note
The collection is open for research.
Access to the collection requires an appointment.
The negatives are in cold storage and require advanced notice to access.
Preferred Citation note
Photo Lot 93-14, George Eaton Simpson photographs, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Additional photographs from Simpson are held in National Anthropological Archives Photo Lot 2001-24.
The George Eaton Simpson Film Study of Plaisance, Haiti, 1937, accession No. 92.12.1 in the Smithsonian Institution Human Film Studies Archives contains silent black and white film footage of Plaisance, Haiti shot by Simpson and his colleagues. The footage contains events also depicted in the photograph collection including work coumbites, marketplace scenes, a wedding ceremony, a funeral, drumming and dancing at a social gathering, and a dancing demonstration. Included in this accession are 21 audiotapes recorded by Simpson and Joseph G. Moore during their fieldwork in Jamaica and Trinidad.
The Joseph G. Moore Collection: Jamaican Revival and Kumina, 1957-1958, accession No. 92.1.1 in the Smithsonian Institution Human Film Studies Archives contains related material to Simpson's study of Jamaican Revival Zion and Kumina. The collection contains film footage of Morant Bay and West Kingston, Jamaica shot in 1957. The footage was originally intended for the "Odyssey" program or possibly a short feature. Some of the it ended up being featured on the CBS program "Lamp Unto My Feet" which also includes interviews with Joseph G. Moore and George Eaton Simpson. There is over 10 hours of footage, and in 1992 Simpson, Smithsonian Institution Human Film Studies Archives Director John Homiak, and research associate Ken Bilby recorded approximately 10 hours of commentary about the footage. This collection also contains audio recordings made in 1993 of a discussion between Simpson, Homiak, and Bilby concerning the relation of Jamaican Revival with Rastafari.
Sound recordings by Simpson held in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections in the Folkways Records Collection and the Moses and Frances Asch Collection.
Oberlin College has a manuscript collection of George Eaton Simpson's papers (RG 30/64) that document Simpson's research and academic work.
Other Finding Aids
Other Finding Aids
A detailed item-level inventory is available in the repository.
National Anthropological Archives
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