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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Libby Holman collection

Repository: Boston University. Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center

Collection Description (CRHP): This collection contains extensive correspondence with Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Carl Braden and Ralph Abernathy, Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes.

The following interview addresses the black freedom struggle: 'Libby Holman Interviewed by Duncan McDonald' (Radio Broadcast WQXR, November 10, 1965).

Collection Description (Extant): Sometimes referred to as "the first great white torch singer," Libby Holman (1904-1971) enjoyed great professional success after becoming an overnight star on Broadway in the 1920s, but her life off stage was one filled with tragedy, overshadowed by the mysterious death of her first husband, tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds. Holman faced accusations of murder but was later cleared. The attendant scandal, however, damaged her career, and though she continued to perform on stage into the 1960s, she never quite achieved the level of success she had enjoyed earlier. By this time, though, Holman had become a social figure, hosting parties for her coterie of friends that included Hollywood stars like Roddy MacDowall and Montgomery Clift, literary figures like Paul and Jane Bowles, and musicians such as Ned Rorem. She also was a fierce champion of social causes and was an early supporter of the Civil Rights movement; indeed, it was through a grant from her foundation that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to travel to India to study first-hand the non-violent techniques espoused by Gandhi.

The Libby Holman collection consists of correspondence, photographs, printed material, audio, memorabilia, and other material. The collection also contains a large section of material pertaining to Alberta Hunter.

Audio recordings in the collection primarily consist of recordings of music in various formats, including long-playing records, reel-to-reel tapes, and cassette tapes, dating from the 1950s to the 1970s. Albums include The Legendary Libby Holman (1965), including a test pressing of side A; Libby Holman Sings; Libby Holman Sings Blues, Ballads, and Sin Songs; Blues Till Dawn, with Josh White on guitar (Decca 316); two albums made for the Presto Recording Co.; Something to Remember Her By, unreleased recordings from 1954 and 1965 (1974); recordings for Brunswick Records; test pressings for Sonic Recordings Products (Aug. 1965); and several others. Music for Yerma includes reel-to-reels and acetate disks of rehearsals (ca. 1959) and a recording of arias from Yerma for Deryck Waring recordings. Also present is a proof recording by Frank Sinatra for Capitol Records, Mar. 8, 1956, 45 rpm, labeled 'Gray' (side A) and 'Blue' (side B). Non-musical recordings in the collection include interviews with Holman by Duncan McDonald, Arlene Francis, and Richard Lamparski (1965-1966); Holman and Dr. John Wexler (1966); two interviews with Holman from 1983; and an album of readings from Shakespeare and Baudelaire by John Carradine, for the Brooke Audio Archives.

Access Copy Note: Check with archival staff to see whether it is possible to listen to reel-to-reel recordings.

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: Collection #110

Extent: 31 boxes

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Libby Holman

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African Americans--Relations with Jews
Civil rights--Religious aspects--Judaism


Sound recordings


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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

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   September 26, 2018
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