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W. Royal Stokes Donates Collection to the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives


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University of the District of Columbia Adds Another Collection to the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives.
The Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at the University of the District of Columbia has acquired a significant collection of recordings, books, and periodicals from jazz author, historian, radio personality, and critic W. Royal Stokes, a D.C. native and former writer for The Washington Post.

“The University of the District of Columbia is a natural and most appropriate repository for my donation. After all, I am a D.C. native, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, and, after living here and there in the States and overseas, resided in the area for more than three decades before relocating to the mountains of West Virginia four years ago," said Stokes. “Two more factors add to the attractiveness of UDC as a home for my books and CDs, namely, that it is an historically black institution and that my collection will be a part of the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. Felix—whose voice was heard on D.C. radio frequencies for just short of a half-century—and I were longtime good friends and broadcasting colleagues. Among my cherished memories is the trip we shared to Bangkok for a 1986 Sister Cities jazz and dance cultural exchange, he representing the Nation's Capital, I as journalist."

W. Royal Stokes was born in 1930 in Washington and his first home, on 19th Street in Adams Morgan, was in the same building that in the 1940s housed the after-hours jazz club Villa Bea. Introduced to jazz through 78 rpm records left behind when his elder brother joined the Navy in 1943, Stokes had his first experience with live jazz through a 1947 performance by the great Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars at the Club Bali on 14th Street, NW.

Academic studies took Stokes from D.C. to the University of Washington where he earned B.A. and M.A degrees, adding a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1965. He was a classics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Tufts University, Brock University, and the University of Colorado, teaching Greek and Latin languages and literature and ancient history. In 1969 he left academia and returned to his hometown, where, from 1972 to 1987, he hosted the programs I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say... and Since Minton's on radio stations WGTB and WPFW. From 1978 to 1986 he was the jazz writer for The Washington Post and he also wrote for JazzTimes, serving as its editor from 1988 to 1990. After leaving the Post and JazzTimes, Stokes was editor of Jazz Notes, the publication of the Jazz Journalists Association from 1992 to 2001 and he is still active in the organization.His first book, The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 was published by Oxford University Press in 1991. Oxford also published his third and fourth books, Living the Jazz Life (2000) and Growing Up with Jazz (2005), which each present “a sort of oral history" that situates D.C.-based artists such as saxophonist George Botts and pianist John Eaton alongside Art Blakey, Don Byron, Diana Krall, and others from New York, California, Europe, and Asia. Stokes's second book, Swing Era New York (Temple University Press, 1994), presents the photographs of Charles Peterson, a jazz guitarist and trained photographer who created many remarkable images of musicians both on- and off-stage from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s. The photographs were prepared by Peterson's son Don and Stokes wrote the accompanying text. At age 79, Stokes shows no sign of slowing up. He is at work on three more book projects, including a novel, another set of musician profiles, and a family history.

The W. Royal Stokes Collection includes more than 2,000 books and 3,500 compact discs as well as a number of periodicals. It is currently being processed and will be available for research use later this year. A complete inventory list will be available on the jazz archives website.

“This collection adds yet another facet to the archives that will make it even more valuable to students, faculty, and visiting scholars," said jazz researcher and author Michael Fitzgerald, the UDC electronic services librarian. “While he has always covered jazz broadly, Mr. Stokes has also taken special care to document the contributions made by Washington-area musicians, adding a local perspective that has often been overlooked. Through the years, Stokes has also served as a champion for women in jazz and the collection includes materials that will enhance our holdings in this area of study."

“We are delighted that Mr. Stokes has donated this wonderful collection," said Curator Judith Korey, “and very grateful to Mr. Fitzgerald for introducing Mr. Stokes to the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. We appreciate and encourage the donation of resources that strengthen our collections and support our programs."

The Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives is the University's stellar jazz research and resource center that houses several major collections including the collection of the late Felix Grant, the internationally renowned jazz authority and radio personality.

“This new donation from W. Royal Stokes is a perfect match for the University as he has long been the premier chronicler of jazz in Washington, D.C.," said Dr. Allen Sessoms, President of University System of the District of Columbia. “The Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives continues to position itself as a significant force both locally and nationally in collecting and preserving jazz materials."

The Learning Resources Division is located in Building 41 on the UDC campus at 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008. The campus is easily accessible on Metro's Red Line, Van Ness/UDC station.

For more information, contact the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at (202) 274-5265 or via email at [email protected].

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