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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum

Re: Jenkins Orphanage, SC
In Response To: Re: Jenkins Orphanage, SC ()

I have been researching and publishing information about the Africa-descent population of Britain ever since I wrote that biography of South Carolina-born, London-trained composer Edmund Jenkins (Greenwood Press, 1982). That effort,fired by my interest in black American jazz of the 1920s, started when I helped John Chilton on his Jazz Nursery story of the Jenkins Orphanage. The Edmund Jenkins papers (now largely at the Schomburg but some are with the Charleston Jazz Initiative: the CJI now have my audio tape interviews from 1979) were concerned with his life in Europe from 1914 to his death in France in 1926, with but two interludes in the US (1920 for a month, and 1923-4 for 4-5 frustrating months).

In my research (1979-1982)I located some of the children of his friends as well as octogenarian friends notably Randall Lockhart in Dominica (the once British island, not the Spanish one) who had left London in 1922 and had vivid memories of 'Jenks'.

No one had written about these men and women, so as I located other veterans I wrote about them and their families. The stories of the musical people were easier to get published, but I wrote about West Indian doctors in London (one of my essays was used by David Levering Lewis in his Du Bois volumes), Alain Locke at Oxford University in 1908, and John Barbour-James, a Guyanese postal official who worked in Ghana in 1902-1919. I knew his daughter.

I met Arthur Briggs in Paris, as you know.

This research became my book Black Edwardians (Cass, 1998). One of the 48 illustrations is the Jenkins Orphange Band in London 1914 (another, supplied by me via the Center for Black Music Research, Chicago, was used by Ball in his 'The Sweet Hell Inside').

I have written or co-written 20 articles for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and have three more waiting to be edited there. All but two are of black people.

There is now an academic subject "Black British History" and, 200 years after the abolition of the British slave trade, earlier this year, contributors including me and my pal Rainer Lotz attended the launch in the House of Lords of the Oxford University Press "Companion to Black British History" volume.

Of the musical research, I have returned to considering Charleston SC's role in early (=1920s)jazz as well as finalizing a biography of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) the London-born son of an African whose orchestral music gave and still gives pleasure to many. I do not have a publisher for that book yet.

And a London publisher has suggested that my edited edition (1986) of the autobiography of Jamaica-born, London-based musician Leslie Thompson will be republished.

Of the Charleston SC work, the missing element in all those threads that produced jazz, as so well documented in New Orleans, is the blues or rough music. I have one reference to Robert Duncan Bass who researched in the Pee Dee river region of SC and had an article published in 1919 in the Journal of American Folk Lore. I have not seen it. Can anyone help?

Best wishes from England

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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