“Great Negro Americans” Finds a Home at Amistad

From left: Laura Thomson, Director of Archives; Brenda Flora, Curator of Moving Images and Recorded Sound, and Brian Sands, Donor

In July, Amistad was excited to accept the donation of master recordings and materials related to “Great Negro Americans,” an educational program produced and written by Alan Sands in 1959 and distributed by Alan Sands Productions throughout the 1960s and '70s and into the mid-1980s.

The audio program is narrated by actress Hilda Simms and actor and director Frederick O’Neal, and tells the stories of several notable Black Americans, outlining their achievements in their various fields. The stories included are those of: Dr. Ralph Bunche (government), John H. Johnson (publishing), Marian Anderson (singer), Jesse Owens (athletics), Charles C. Spaulding (insurance), A. Philip Randolph (labor), Louis Armstrong (music), Mary McLeod Bethune (education), Robert A. Cole (business), and Dr. Daniel Williams (medicine).

Narrators Frederick O’Neal and Hilda Simms

The program appears to have been intended to be the first in a series aimed at school children, but it does not seem that any additional recordings were ever produced. The master recordings were used to produce two commercially available phonographic records: “Great Negro Americans, Volume One” on vinyl, and the abbreviated promotional flexi disc “Portraits in Achievement, Volume 1,” both of which are also included in the donation. In addition to the audio recordings, the collection includes 8x10 promotional photographs and additional fliers and inserts.

The “Great Negro Americans” collection will make a wonderful addition to the archives. It expands our collections related to education and to the individuals whose accomplishments the program celebrates.

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