Scope and arrangement
Lawrence Brown's life spanned World War I, the Harlem Renaissance and World War II, and in many ways the collection captures the moods and spirits of these diverse periods as well as documenting the career of Brown himself.
The Lawrence Brown papers are arranged in eight series:
Consist of biographical data, insurance policies and a good conduct certificate. There is also material relating to his death and the memorial concert held in 1973.
Consists of letters and cards to Brown from friends and business associates. Persons of note include Amanda Aldridge, Roland Hayes, Langston Hughes, William Lawrence, Paul and Eslanda Robeson and Brown's beloved landlady, Mrs. Corinne Sawyer. This incoming correspondence has been arranged alphabetically by the sender's last name and chronologically within each name. Correspondence without last name is arranged by the first name of the sender at the end of the appropriate letter of the alphabet. Names under which large amounts of correspondence can be found have been given their own folders.
The collection includes very little outgoing correspondence. Brown wrote letters to Ethel Gardner Dingle and Jannett Hamlyn, both close friends, and to the attorney, Robert Rockmore and Richard Johnson. The outgoing letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent's name and have been placed following the file of incoming letter from that individual.
One of the last folders in the CORRESPONDENCE is an assortment of incoming letters without signatures. An additional folder of miscellaneous correspondence neither to nor from Brown follows the incoming and outgoing letters. Several of these letters are to Paul Robeson from miscellaneous authors. There is also a 1940 form letter from Paul Robeson.
The CORRESPONDENCE reflects world affairs, Brown's wide travels, as well as his many friendships. Amanda Aldridge sends Brown letters expressing her gratitude for the many kindnesses he has shown her. There is, among her letters, a bequest from her estate to Brown and another from the Aldridge family to Brown upon their deaths. The letters of Marie Dokens tell of the terror of the bombings in England during World War II. She often sends thanks to Brown for money and parcels sent to help her through hard times. Zaidee Jackson also describes the devastations of World War II while she is abroad. She writes of the frustrations of finding a direction for her life and career, and she often asks Brown's advice. Jannett Hamlyn describes in her letter the colorful theater circuit in Europe in the early 1930's. Eslanda Robeson writes of the trials of motherhood upon the birth of Paul, Jr. and the activities of Paul Sr. in the theater. She also confides in Brown her personal frustrations.
Consists mostly of itineraries for tours and departure and arrival schedules.
Comprised largely of royalty and earnings statements. This file also contains miscellaneous income tax statements and check-stub books. The financial records are chronologically arranged.
Sorted into two groups: those featuring Brown and those pertaining to other artists. Brown's programs are arranged chronologically, while the programs of other artists are arranged alphabetically by the name of the performer. Brown's programs are from concerts in which his arrangements were used or in which he performed.
Consisting largely of concert reviews.
Clippings and telegrams covering the Robeson-Brown concert years.
Consisting of both holograph and printed compositions, largely undated. The sheet music has been separated into two categories: Brown's compositions and the works of other composers which Brown arranged or annotated. Holograph music with no apparent composer has been included with Brown's work. Fragments of music and lyrics have been placed at the end of each file. Lawrence Brown's compositions have been arranged in alphabetical order by title while those of other composers are alphabetical by composer's name. Most of the music is spirituals and plantation songs.