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Leon Forrest (1937-1997) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/1/3

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  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Biographical materials include Forrest's curriculum vitae and a chronology of his life and works (box 1, folder 1), a photocopy of pages from the family bible listing significant birthdays and events (box 1, folder 2), awards and certificates, photocopies of pages from Aitchpe, his Hyde Park High School yearbook, newspaper clippings, and correspondence (relating mostly to his work at Northwestern).

The Northwestern University sub-series is comprised mostly of class notes and research notes for his classes and writings. These notes are in no particular order. There are also folders relating to his teaching and as head of the Department of African American studies. The records within these three folders are arranged chronologically.

The majority of the folders in the Books and Publications sub-series contain manuscripts, galley and page proofs of his first four novels (There is a Tree More Ancient than Eden, (incorporating material originally published under the title Sub-Rosa), The Bloodworth Orphans, Two Wings to Veil My Face, and Divine Days). Of particular interest is the forward to Two Wings to Veil My Face, signed by Toni Morrison (box 4, folder 3). This sub-series also includes articles by and about Forrest, the libretto to the opera Soldier, Boy Soldier, reviews of Forrest's books, and the manuscript for Leon Forrest, Introduction, and Interpretation, a collection of literary critiques of Forrest's work edited by his friend John C. Cawelti. Box 8 contains the undated musical scores forAncestral Voices and Soldier Boy, Soldier with music by composer T. J. Anderson and words by Forrest.

An addition is chiefly related to the posthumously-published novel Meteor in the madhouse.


  • 1952-1998


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Box 1, Folder 10 may contain sensitive materials; consultation with University Archivist required prior to use. This folder also contains original versions of the redacted copies found in folders 8 and 9 of this box.


11.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Leon Richard Forrest served as chairman of Northwestern University's African American Studies department from 1985 to 1994, and also held a professorship in the English department. The Leon Forrest Papers consist of 8 boxes spanning the years 1954 to 1998. The bulk of the papers consist of manuscripts and proofs of his novels.


The Leon Richard Forrest papers are organized into: biographical materials (arranged by topic and date); Northwestern University; books and publications (materials related to four novels published during his lifetime are arranged by date of publication, followed by miscellaneous other writings); teaching files; and publications (chiefly related to the novel Meteor in the madhouse (published posthumously).

Method of Acquisition

The Leon Forrest Papers include materials transferred to the University Archives by the Department of African-American Studies (Accession No. 93-106 on August 18, 1993), and materials donated by Kathleen Bethel (Accession No. 97-154 on September 8, 1992), by Leon Forrest (Accession No. 96-95 on June 25, 1996), and by Marianne Forrest via Jerral West (Accession No. 98-115 on June 26, 1998). Biographical materials from the University Archives' Faculty Biographical Files were also incorporated into the Papers.

Addition, 1954-1999, Boxes 9-11. This addition to the Leon Forrest Papers was donated to the University Archives by Marianne Forrest on August 17, 2001, as Accession Number 01-134.

Addition, 1978, Box 8This score was separated from Accession Number 03-104, Records of the Music School, on July 14, 2003.

Related Materials

Nine videocassettes relating to Leon Forrest (acc#. 04-104 VC#: 969-977) are available in the University Archives audiovisual collection. These titles, item numbers, and barcodes are:

  • Leon Forrest Birthday Celebration (#969, 35551000175951)
  • Leon Forrest Birthday Celebration (#970, 35551000175944)
  • Leon Forrest Birthday Celebration (#971, 35551000175936)
  • Leon Forrest -- Tape 1 (#972, 35551000175886)
  • Leon Forrest -- Tape 2 (#973, 35551000175928)
  • Leon Forrest -- Tape 3 (#974, 35551000175878)
  • Leon Forrest -- Tape 4 (#975, 35551000175894)
  • Leon Forrest -- Tape 5 (#976, 35551000175910)
  • Leon Forrest -- Tape 6 (#977, 35551000175902)

Separated Materials

Approximately four inches of duplicate or extraneous matter were discarded. Three wooden liquor boxes, which originally housed Forrest's manuscripts, were transferred to the University Archives' artifacts collection.

Processing Information

Peter Gunther February 7, 2001.

Addition, 1954-1999, Boxes 9-11. Janet Olson, December 2001.

Addition, 1978, Box 8. Janet Olson, July 2003.

Guide to the Leon Forrest (1937-1997) Papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US