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R. Nathaniel Dett papers

Identifier: c-00206

Scope and Contents

The collection includes scores of Dett's music, autographed sheet music, newspapers clippings, a program from a concert of Dett's music, and a copy of the Fisher Edition News, a music industry publication.


  • Creation: 1913 - 1943


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

R. Nathaniel Dett, the eminent Black composer, was born in Drummondville, Canada, on October 11, 1882. He attended the Lockport Conservatory of Music and later received a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin College. He earned his M. A. at the Eastman School. Further musical studies were undertaken in Paris, France, where Dett studied under Boulanger. In 1920, Harvard awarded him the Bowdoin Prize for his essay "The Emancipation of Negro Music." Seven years later he received the first presentation of the Harmon Foundation for creative music. Dett has been credited as the first to write Black folk songs for classical development. In addition to his outstanding compositions, Dett wrote five books on the development of Black music.

In his career Dett served on the faculty of Lane College, Tennessee (1908-1911); the Lincoln Institute, Missouri (1911-1913); Hampton Institute, Virginia (1913-1931); Samuel Houston College Texas (1935); and Bennett College, North Carolina (1937) While at the Hampton Institute, Dett took its choir on a world tour. He was serving as director of musical activities for the U.S.O. at the time of his death on October 2, 1943, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The papers include scores of Dett's music, autographed sheet music, newspaper clippings, a program fro, a concert of Dett music, and a copy of the Fisher Edition News, a music industry publication.

9/19/97 Revised March 2000


1 Cubic Feet (, 34 folders)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of Paul Eickmeyer, 1970-07-23.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University. Some materials may have copyright restrictions. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

R. Nathaniel Dett Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
September 1997
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US