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Camilla Williams papers

Identifier: 389

Scope and Contents

The papers document the career of Camilla Williams, acclaimed operatic singer and concert artist, in the United States and abroad. The papers encompass 1.2 linear feet, which includes 0.2 linear feet of correspondence (letter, post cards, greeting cards, telegrams) and 1.0 linear foot of non-correspondence, including press releases, publicity notices, notes, foreign itineraries, invitations and collected materials about Williams' travels and about other people. The bulk of the papers date primarily between 1944 and 1975.

Correspondence is primarily between Williams and her husband, Attorney Charles T. Beavers, and her mother, Fannie Cary Williams, and other friends and relatives. However, there are also letters of interest from Eleanor Roosevelt and a letter from Father Divine (Reverend Major Jealous Divine). Other correspondents include Raymond Pace Alexander, Dick Campbell, Elmer A. Carter, Norman N. Fromm, Robert Kollitsch, Frederick D. Patterson, Carl Van Vechten, and Robert Wagner.

Perhaps the most informative groups of non-correspondence materials are the musical programs and the press clippings. These reveals that Williams tried to feature unusual selections in her recitals, performing such infrequently heard music as that of Samuel Barber, Arthur Bliss, John Alden Carpenter, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Leo Delibes, Gordon Jacobs, Charles Koechlin, Meyer Kupferman, Gian Francesco Malipierp, Gian-Carlo Saëns, Ludwig Spohr, Howard Swanson, Randall Thompson, and Clarence Cameron White. She also featured arrangements of spirituals and Black folk songs by a number of different persons, including Borislav Bazala, Edward Boatner, William Boatner, Margaret Bonds, Harry Thatcher Burleigh, William L. Dawson, M. Gardner, Roland Hayes, Hall Johnson, J. Rosamond Johnson, Camille Nickerson, Florence Price, Noah Ryder, Lily Strickland, John W. Work, and Clarence Cameron White.


  • Created: 1944-1975
  • Other: Date acquired: 12/01/1975


Conditions Governing Access

The Camilla Williams papers are open and available for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.


1.20 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The Camilla Williams papers include three boxes that are organized by format or subject and chronologically within.

Source of Acquisition

Camilla Williams Beavers

Method of Acquisition


Appraisal Information

The Camilla Williams papers document her musical career as a lyric soprano, the first black female to hold a regular position with a leading United States opera company, and the cultural ambassadress for the U.S. State Department.

Accruals and Additions

An addition to the Camilla Williams papers was received in 1989.

Related Materials

The Amistad Research Center holds several other collections that relate to operatic singers, including the Annabelle Bernard papers, the Carol Lovette Brice papers, the Anne Wiggins Brown papers, the Thomas Carey papers, the Ellis Cooper papers, the John Wesley Dobbs family papers, and the William Warfield papers.

Related Publications

Williams, Camilla, and Stephanie Shonekan.  The life of Camilla Williams: African American classical singer and opera diva. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2011.

Shonekan, Stephanie.  One life, two voices: the exploration, examination, and exposition of the life of Camilla Williams, soprano. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Indiana University, 2003.

Other Descriptive Information

An index of correspondence is available in paper form, please contact the Reference Services Department for more information.

Processing Information

The processing of this collection was completed in December 1979.

Camilla Williams papers
Mossialand Novena Williams and Lester Sullivan, Jr.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

6823 Saint Charles Avenue
Tilton Hall, Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118 US
(504) 862-3222