Samuel and Ann Charters Archive at UConn



For nearly the last 50 years, Samuel Charters has been discovering and documenting African American music. Starting as a field recorder for Folkways Records in 1954, Sam Charters has also served as recording director for Prestige and Vanguard Records, producer for Sonet Records and is the owner of Gazell Records. A prolific writer and poet, Charters has published many books about the blues and accounts of the lives of musicians who played the blues. In the field, he often collaborated with his wife Ann, who is a writer, literary scholar, photographer and pianist in her own right.

Their quest to document African American music has taken them to St. Louis, Memphis, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, the Caribbean and as far as Africa. In these places, the Charters have tried to record music that they believed was going to be lost. Their efforts to preserve and share the songs that they heard on their travels have culminated in a working archive that provides researchers with a complete experience of African American vernacular music.

The Archives at UConn contain sound recordings of a full range of African American music from African, gospel and the blues in all its forms, to Cajun and zydeco, early New Orleans jazz and more recent jazz, ragtime, Caribbean, reggae and rap and hip hop music. Original research materials include field notes, musician’s contracts, studio session listings and photographs, as well as engagement diaries and interview notes. A host of reference sources including monographs, sheet music, film and video recordings on African American music are also available for research use.

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