Pain Relief Beyond Belief





From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.


Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?


Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.


For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.


Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.






Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin



       In Her Own Words

Praise song for a newly minted ancestor Paul Carter Harrison (1936-2021)

Praise song for a newly minted ancestor Paul Carter Harrison (1936-2021)

    • By Kym Moore | Special for The St. Louis Amer

Paul Carter Harrison reading his work in 2015

Photo courtesy of Mark Harrison and Anthony Dixson

This is not an obituary. 

Paul Carter Harrison, award-winning playwright, scholar, professor, mentor, loving father, husband, and loyal friend, was far too invested in and connected to the lifeforce in him for anything of the sort. This is a Praise Song for a Newly Minted Ancestor.

Paul Carter Harrison was the quintessential “race man” who spent his entire career dedicated to the task of reconnecting us to the root.

Paul Carter Harrison was the quintessential “race man” who spent his entire career dedicated to the task of reconnecting us to the root. Much like the Egungun in the Yoruba tradition, he acted as a luminous bridge between Then and Now. ("Egungun is a visible manifestation of the spirits of departed ancestors who periodically revisit the human community for remembrance, celebration, and blessings.") For him, we were not lost and wondering but truly connected to a deep rich legacy of art and culture that could serve as a wellspring from which we could drink and evolve. 

Paul Carter Harrison with his daughter Fonteyn

Photo by Fred Sweets | St. Louis American

The first time I remember meeting PCH, I must have been about eight years old. He’d come to visit my mother Olivia, who was a longtime friend from college days at Indiana University. I was immediately struck by the way he seemed to glide into the room donning a dashiki and man-bag. When he spoke, I sat mesmerized and wondered where he’d come from. I found him sort of magical and scary at the same time. When my mother took me to see his play The Great MacDaddy at the Negro Ensemble Company, I didn’t quite understand it. Yet that sense of something magical I’d seen in him as a child was also in the play. I was inspired. Paul would become a kind of surrogate father to me as I grew up. His interventions were especially important to me since I would go against mom’s wishes and pursue the art of making theater as a career. He encouraged me and supported me throughout. Eventually, I would get to work with him as a dramaturge which was the ultimate gift of a long-cherished family friend and mentor.

Paul Carter Harrison (left), with long time friends visual artist Oliver L. Jackson, and St. Louis American Publisher Donald M. Suggs.

Photo by Fred Sweets | St. Louis American

Despite his formidable presence in any room, he inhabited much of his real work and undeniable influence on Black art, and art makers remained in the shadows. PCH was deeply involved in the Black Arts Movement and the establishing of Black Theatre aesthetics. He collaborated and/or maintained close association with many of the luminaries of his time including Amiri BarakaMelvin van PeeblesOliver JacksonMax RoachArchie SheppNtozake ShangeDianne McIntyreAugust Wilson and countless others who were influenced by his writing, lectures, and creative work. In many ways, his work was far ahead of its time. In years to come, as is sadly the case when brilliant artist-scholars make their transition, many will “discover” him and marvel. 

He was eager to get back to work on a co-edited volume of essays on the “real roots of Afro-Futurism, not that commercial stuff they have going out there,” he said.

Drama of Nommo: Black Theatre in the African-Continuum'', his first book of essays articulating black aesthetics, brought us an alternative weapon with which to ‘fight the power.’ Nommo invoked the power to use language to call forth a new reality. The power of ritual and language to transform reality is essential to our liberation as people of the diaspora.  In his seminal essay Mother/Word, he writes:

"Close inspection of language in the African diaspora-save, perhaps, the hybrid form of nineteenth-century European speech retained in Liberia-reveals the common verbal impulse to make the word sing, irrespective of alien-tongue or corruptions of original syntax. What is most important here, as much so as for the Dogon, is that the resulting actions of language-spoken or gesticulated have meaningful correspondences in both the physical and spiritual worlds. It is not uncommon, then, to discover in the art forms of the black world a language that is mythopoetic and intensified or amplified by an orphic sonority. A scat song, for example, is a rhythmic elaboration of language that, much like "talkin' in tongues," probes the "numinous shadow " for light and the meaning of objective reality, and produces, as Wilson Harris has noted in The Womb of Space, 5 "metaphoric imagery that intricately conveys music as the shadow of vanished but visualized presences." 


Though we all took great pride in that PCH was a man of arts and letters to many of us, he was much more. His commitment and loyalty to family were unflinching and profound. His only biological daughter, Fonteyn, described him as a “great father!” And that he was for sure. But he was also a great uncle, grandfather, mentor, friend, husband and champion of our right to think and live freely. His definition of family was broad and included many of us younger artists-scholars who dared to explore our identities beyond the bounds of established definitions of black art and culture. He studied diligently so that we could know from whence we came.

I spoke to him two days before he made his transition. As always, he was eager to get back to work on a co-edited volume of essays on the “real roots of Afro-Futurism, not that commercial stuff they have going out there,” he said. “I know Paul... I hear you.” In so many ways, PCH played the role of ancestor to his people in real time throughout his embodied life. He could be a harsh critic at times, but beneath it all, you knew that he cared and that he loved you regardless. It was that Ogun/Shango/Elegba kind of love that understood the urgency of the task and wanted us to know that artistic production was important. He was a seasoned warrior and a trickster when it suited the circumstances. Wanda Malone Harrison, his wife and Fonteyn knew the fullness of his passion. He was a complicated man who would come to be revered the way he should have been in life now that he’s gone home.

We are blessed to have you with us through the work, of course. But those of us who knew you well will miss you dearly, even though we can rest assured that you are with us nonetheless. Ase’!!!

Kym Moore

Kym Moore is Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University and Co-Artistic Director of Antigravity Performance Project.

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Paul Carter Harrison

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Paul Carter Harrison (born March 1, 1936) is an American playwright and professor.

Biography[edit source]

Born in New York City, Harrison earned a B.A. in psychology from Indiana University in 1957. Harrison earned an M.A. in psychology and phenomenology from New York City's New School for Social Research in 1962. He then went to live in Europe to write and direct for the theater.

Harrison taught theater at Howard University from 1968 to 1970. His students included Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Linda Goss, Pearl Cleage and Clinton Turner Davis.

While teaching at California State University, Sacramento (1970–1972), Harrison conceived and directed Melvin Van Peebles' "Ain't Supposed To Die a Natural Death" prior to its Broadway production, and wrote his play The Great MacDaddy which was produced by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1973, and won an Obie Award.

Harrison taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1972 to 1976 before moving on to Columbia College Chicago in 1976 to work as Chair, Professor, and Writer in Residence at the Theatre Department until his retirement in 2002. He is currently Professor Emeritus.

Young Life[edit source]

Paul Carter Harrison is an African American man born on March 1, 1936 to Thelma Inez and Paul Randolph Harrison whom were born in North and South Carolina but raised in New York City. His brother, Kenneth Allen Harrison was the first black basketball player on scholarship at Villanova University. Harrison attended Commerce High School and graduated in 1952. While attending New York University, Harrison was introduced to many writers and theater artists such as Lou Gossett, Jr., Billy Dee Williams, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), and Ted Joans. He transferred to Indiana University where he interacted with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Larry Ridley, and David Baker.

Europe[edit source]

After graduating from the New School, Harrison went to Spain and the Netherlands for seven years where he worked on his writing and theatre skills. During his time out of the country he wrote a movie called “Stranger On The Square”. His first book of edited essays "The Modern Drama Footnote", was published in Amsterdam, as well as his plays, "Pavane for a Deadpan Minstrel" and "Tophat". Other plays written, performed and directed in the Netherlands included, "The Post Clerks" and “The Experimental Leader”, the latter becoming the center piece for his book commonly known as “Dialogue from the Opposition”. However, since the English version of this work isn't available the title "Dialogue from the Opposition" seems to be a rather tame re-translation of its Dutch version's title. The Dutch publication is named "Dialoog van het verzet" which is more accurately translated as "Dialogue of (the) resistance/rebellion". The original English title as it was written by Harrison is noted in the book by Dutch translators (friend of Harrison: H.J.A. Hofland and, Carla van Splunteren) as "A Rebel's Dialogue". While living in Amsterdam, Harrison married the Dutch actress, Ria Vroemen who gave birth to his daughter, Fonteyn in 1963.

Accomplishments[edit source]

On August 6 of 1988, Paul Carter Harrison married his wife, Wanda Malone. Harrison's work as a playwright and theatre theorist has been published and produced in Europe and the United States, causing him to win awards for his work. His play, “Great Macdaddy” won an Obie Award and “Tabernacle” won the Audelco Award for Best Creative Musical. He also has written and edited many other plays, anthologies, and books that involved theatre and jazz performers. “The Drama of Nommo” is a book he wrote, which is a collection of essays that identified African retentions in the aesthetic of African American culture and has helped many directors in the Black Theatre practice. Harrison is known for coming up with terms such as “Nommo” and Mother/Word” as constructive references for Black Theatre. His most recent book, “Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora”, was published in the Spring of 2002. His most current task was writing the libretto for "Doxology Opera: the Doxy Canticles", a full-length opera composed by Wendell Logan which was premiered in a concert version at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in 2002. He has also written the text for the operetta, "Goree Crossing" with music by Olu Dara that was also given a concert performance at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. As Dramaturg for the ETA Theatre in Chicago, Harrison developed Marcia Leslie's highly successful play, "The Trial of One Short-sighte Black Woman vs Mammie Louise and Safreeta Mae". His most recent conceptualization and direction is "Sweet Thunder: the Billie Strayhorn Story" which has been performed at the Phoenix Black Theatre Troupe and the Kuntu Repertory Theatre in Pittsburgh. He is currently living in New York City and continues to travel to Spain every year with his daughter.

Bibliography[edit source]

External links[edit source]

Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016
Emory University
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library
Atlanta, GA 30322
Collection Stored Off-Site
All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials
can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of
up to two business days for retrieval.
Descriptive Summary
Creator: Harrison, Paul Carter, 1936-
Title: Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016
Call Number: Manuscript Collection No. 1149
Extent: 30 linear feet (60 boxes), 2 oversized papers boxes (OP), 2 bound volumes
(BV), A/V Masters: 2.5 linear ft., and 1.66 GB born digital material (2,819
Abstract: Papers of African American playwright and scholar Paul Carter Harrison,
including correspondence; play scripts, books and other writings by
Harrison; subject files; writings by others; printed material; photographs; and
audiovisual and born digital material.
Language: Materials primarily in English with some material in Dutch.
Administrative Information
Restrictions on Access
Special restrictions apply: Use copies of audiovisual material in this collection have not been
made at this time. Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance to
access this material. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications
may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.
Access to processed born digital materials is only available in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript,
Archives, and Rare Book Library (the Rose Library). Use of the original digital media is
Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this
Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016 Manuscript Collection No. 1149
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Printed or manuscript music in this collection that is still under copyright protection and is not in
the Public Domain may not be photocopied or photographed. Researchers must provide written
authorization from the copyright holder to request copies of these materials.
Gift, 2010.
[after identification of item(s)], Paul Carter Harrison papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript,
Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
Processed by Sarah Quigley, Margaret Greaves, and Ingrid Meintjes, April 2014.
Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Brenna Edwards, 2020. Born digital
materials include files taken from 16 optical discs. For information as to how these materials
were processed, see the processing note in the description of series 8, Born digital material.
This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose
Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear
and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other
oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact
us at
Collection Description
Biographical Note
Paul Carter Harrison, African American playwright, director, and scholar, was born on March
1, 1936 in New York City, New York, to Thelma Inez and Paul Randolph Harrison. In 1957,
Harrison earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington,
Indiana, and after moving back to New York, earned a Master of Arts in psychology and
phenomenology from the New School for Social Research in 1962. Following graduate school,
Harrison moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he lived for seven years and became active
in the arts, staging readings by black poets and writing for television and the theater. During
a visit to America, Harrison witnessed the 1964 Harlem riots, which significantly influenced
Tabernacle (1965), his first full-length play. Harrison is the author of numerous other plays,
including The Great MacDaddy, which won an Obie Award (Off-Broadway Theater Award
bestowed by The Village Voice) in 1974.
Harrison’s work often combines elements of African mythology and ritual with American
traditions such as jazz to highlight unique elements of African American culture and history.
Plays such as Tophat and Pavane for a Dead-Pan Minstrel have also explored traditional racial
and gender roles by depicting characters who trade races or exhibit non-traditional gender
behaviors. Harrison’s work also experiments with closing the distance between audience and
performers in productions such as Tabernacle, which casts the audience as the congregation
of a church service lead by the main character, and his direction of Melvin Van Peebles’ Ain’t
Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016 Manuscript Collection No. 1149
Supposed to Die a Natural Death (1970), which planted in the audience actors dressed as street
people, drunks, and prostitutes to interact with theater-goers.
Harrison is also a scholar and professor. After returning to live in the United States, he took the
position of assistant professor in theater arts at Howard University from 1968-1970. He went on
to teach theater arts and African American studies at several universities, including California
State University, Sacramento; University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Columbia College in
Chicago. Harrison retired from Columbia College in 2002 and is now Professor Emeritus there.
He has published several monographs and edited works on black theater, including The Drama
of Nommo: Black Theater in the African Continuum (1972), Kuntu Drama: Plays of the African
Continuum (1974), and Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory (1988).
Scope and Content Note
The collection consists of the papers of Paul Carter Harrison from 1939-2016, including
correspondence and personal papers, writings by Harrison and others, subject files, printed
material, photographs and audiovisual material. The collection documents Harrison’s numerous
professional roles as playwright, director, producer, screenwriter, scholar, and professor, as well
as his many collaborations with other artists, including composers and musicians such as Buster
Davis, Julius Hemphill, T.S. Galloway, and Clyde S. Batton, as well as writer Odie Hawkins
and director Gilbert Moses. Correspondence in the collection is both personal and professional
in nature and includes letters between Harrison and his daughter Fonteyn Harrison and his
previous wives: Dutch actress Ria Vroemen and author Carla van Splunteren. Also included are
letters between Harrison and artists in theater and film such as Pearl Cleage, Gilbert Moses, and
Sheldon Patinkin as well as correspondence with publishing houses and theater organizations
such as the Negro Ensemble Company. Personal papers contain financial and legal documents,
playwright and commission agreements, and service and production contracts for multiple
Writings by Harrison contain typescript drafts, synopses, notes, and performance files of
Harrison’s plays, musicals, and operas as well as manuscript and printed scores and sheet music
for various performances. Also present are typescripts, synopses, and treatments for Harrison’s
screenplays, including works such as Lord Shango (1975), Youngblood (1978), and A Change
is Gonna Come, an unproduced biopic about musician Sam Cooke. Writings by Harrison also
contains a small number of teleplay typescripts for the programs Getting to Know Me (1980)
and Uptown Strutter’s Ball (unproduced). Other writings by Harrison primarily include drafts
of Harrison’s articles, essays and reviews concerning race and the black theater. Books and
compilations written by Harrison include his unpublished novel One Anonymous Mourning and
a collection of short stories, as well his book-length work of collected essays, The Drama of
Nommo. A significant amount of material also pertains to two volumes Harrison compiled and
edited: Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora and Totem Voices: Plays
from the Black World Repertory.
Writings by others include articles and essays about Harrison and works directed or produced
by Harrison, as well as plays, essays, musicals, reviews, and poetry sent to and collected by
Harrison. Of particular interest are essays by Amiri Baraka and Ed Bullins as well as a typescript
of August Wilson’s play Jitney. Subject files contain material on subjects of personal and
professional interest to Harrison primarily relating to African American theater and the arts;
Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016 Manuscript Collection No. 1149
project and grant proposal files relating to Harrison’s writings and black theatre; and teaching
files containing syllabi, course notes, and other teaching material. Printed material includes
reprints of published articles and plays written by Harrison as well as published articles,
interviews, reviews, and event programs about Harrison. A notable collection of newspaper
clippings from the 1960s are articles by and about Harrison from the Dutch newspaper De
Nieuwe Linie with a few from the now defunct Algemeen Handelsblad. Other printed material
includes articles, book chapters, publications, and other newspaper clippings collected by
Photographs contain images of Harrison, Laurence Fishburne, Roscoe Lee Brown, Oliver Lee
Jackson, Salome Jens, Duane Jones, Melba Moore, Larry Neal, and Charles (Chuck) Stewart,
as well as Harrison’s parents Paul Harrison and Thelma Harrison and his daughter Fontayne
Thelma Harrison. There are also photographs of productions of Doxology Opera, Pavane
for a Dead-Pan Minstrel, and photographs taken by Bert Andrews, Adger W. Cowans and
Joseph Mehling. Audiovisual material contains sound, video, and film recordings of Paul Carter
Harrison’s theatre productions, as well as recordings of conferences and seminars that Harrison
attended such as the Black Arts Seminar at Howard University in 1970, the National Black
Theater Summit "On Golden Pond" in 1998, and the ETA Creative Arts Foundation Playwrights
Discovery/Development Initiative from 1992-1998.
Arrangement Note
Organized into eight series: (1) Correspondence and personal papers, (2) Writings by Harrison,
(3) Writings by others (4) Subject files, (5) Printed material, (6) Photographs, (7) Audiovisual
material, and (8) Born digital material.
Paul Carter Harrison papers, 1939-2016 Manuscript Collection No. 1149
Description of Series
Series 1: Correspondence and personal papers, 1953-2016
Series 2: Writings by Harrison, 1963-2014
Subseries 2.1: Scripts, 1963-2014
Subseries 2.2: Other writings, 1966-2009
Series 3: Writings by others, 1971-2012
Series 4: Subject files, 1967-2012
Series 5: Printed material, 1946-2014
Series 6: Photographs, 1939-2004
Series 7: Audiovisual material, 1965-2007
Series 8: Born digital material, 1994-200


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