Collections Highlight: Joy McLean Bosfield Papers

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A page from Scrapbook II, 1945-1985. Joy McLean Bosfield Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

Joy McLean Bosfield (1924-1991) was a singer, musical director, actress, and musical instructor who performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East from the 1940s to the 1980s.  Her papers in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, documents Ms. McLean Bosfield’s professional career through photographs, correspondence, programs, and scrapbooks.

Joy was born on January 27, 1924 to John and Florence Mearimore.  Her mother, an immigrant from Demerara, Guiana (now part of Guyana), married McLean’s father, a prominent New York businessman, in March of 1923 in New Jersey.  Joy lived in Paramus, New Jersey until 1940, when she graduated from Ridgewood High School.  During that same year Bosfield was accepted to the prestigious Hunter College, in New York.

On February 26, 1945, McLean Bosfield performed her first recital at St. Martin’s Little Theatre. Three years later in 1948, McLean married Charles McLean, who was originally from British Guyana, and the couple moved to England.  She began performing in Europe in the early 1950s, singing soprano leads for productions for the BBC, British churches, and English musical plays. While in London, an American production of Porgy and Bess used her talents during their international tours as a rehearsal accompanist, vocal role coach, and assistant to the musical director.

After returning to the United States in the mid-1950s, Bosfield continue her career as a concert artist. In 1963 she moved to Washington, DC, where she became musical director of John Wesley AME Zion Church. She also worked for the Frederick Wilkerson Studio of Voice as a vocal coach, and managed the studio after the death of Wilkerson until the 1980s.

Retiring and moving to Chapala, Mexico in 1985, Bosfield participated in community theater productions and other community functions there, until her death on April 4, 1999.

Do you want to learn more about Joy McLean Bosfield’s long and distinguished career?  You can by helping transcribe her two fragile scrapbooks in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook I, 1923-1964

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook II, 1945-1985

 

Armstrong Manual Training School

On September 24, 1902 Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered the keynote speech for the dedication ceremony of Armstrong Manual Training School.  The school was one of two high schools in the District of Columbia authorized by Congress for vocational education.  Armstrong school was built for African Americans and McKinley for white students.

The school was named for Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), a white commander of an African American Civil War regiment and founder of Hampton Institute, now University. Designed by local architect Waddy B. Woody, the Renaissance Revival building provided carpentry, machine, foundry, and blacksmith workshops. In addition, courses in bookkeeping, domestic arts, chemistry, and physics were offered. The historic school has been described as, “an important institution and symbol for the African American community in Washington, D.C. . .”

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Armstrong Manual Training School Yearbook, 1902-1903. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

Much of the success for the school in the formative years is attributed to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, the founding principal and father of concert artist, Madame Lillian Evanti. In a 1904 article from the Colored American Magazine, Dr. Evans states, “although only two classes have been graduated, we find almost all of them employed in a variety of remunerative situations.”  He goes on to say, “. . . two are student assistants in the United States Department of Agriculture, four are teaching in the rural schools of Maryland. . .”

Armstrong graduates also gained local, national, and in some cases international acclaimed in their chosen field.  Duke Ellington, William “Billy” Eckstein, Lillian Evans Tibbs, John Malachi, and Jimmy Cobb are among a host of prominent alumni.

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Pages from Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

In 1996 Armstrong was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now serves the local community as the Armstrong Adult Education Center. However, you can help us make a fragile Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook from 1902-1903 in our collection more accessible and searchable by transcribing it at the Smithsonian Transcription Center!

Transcribe Tuesdays: What we Discovered!

We discovered interesting information when reviewing transcripts of our projects on the Smithsonian Transcription Center.  While reviewing transcriptions of the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School autograph book, we discovered the signature of Angelina Weld Grimké.

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Page 3, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Autograph Book, Signature of Angelina W. Grinke. June 14, 1923. Ella B. Pearis papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Angelina was a poet, teacher, journalist, and playwright who was the only daughter of Archibald Grimké and Sarah Stanley. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1880 and moved to Washington, DC with her father after graduating from Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Ms. Grimké began teaching at Dunbar High School in early 1900s.  In 1923 she signed the autograph book of student Ella B. Pearis.

Angelina is mostly celebrated for her poetry and 1916 play: Rachel.  She is also acknowledged as an inspiration to various artists of the Harlem Renaissance.   Angelina left Washington, DC after the death of her father in 1930 and moved to New York where she died in 1958.

Thanks to the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers who help us make treasures like Grimké’s signature buried deep within our collections discoverable!

Learn more about Angelina Weld Grimké, here.

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