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MS Thr 427

Soyinka, Wole. Wole Soyinka papers, 1966-1996: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Thr 427
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Soyinka, Wole.
Title: Wole Soyinka papers,
Date(s): 1966-1996.
Quantity: 1 collection (24 linear feet (16 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Papers of Nigerian author and humanitarian Wole Soyinka, including compositions, correspondence, and records of his teaching and human rights activities.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2004MT-114. Purchased from Wole Soyinka with the Amy Lowell fund, Harvard Theatre Collection funds, and funds from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the President's Office; received 1995.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Susan Radovsky and Beth Carroll-Horrocks, with assistance from Maggie Lehrman.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Wole Soyinka Papers, 1966-1996 (MS Thr 427). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Wole Soyinka was born in Nigeria in 1934 and educated at the University College, Ibadan (later the University of Ibadan) from 1952-54 and the University of Leeds (B.A., 1957). While in England, he served as a playreader at the Royal Court Theatre. Returning to the newly independent Nigeria in 1960, he held teaching appointments at the University of Ife, Ibadan (1962-63), and the University of Lagos (1965-67). Professor Soyinka was Head of the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan from 1969 to 1972 and Head of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife from 1975 to 1985. During the Nigerian civil war, he was imprisoned by the military government and served two years before being released in 1969. He has held teaching posts as a visiting lecturer at many universities in the United States, most recently as a professor in African American Studies at Emory University.
His many plays include The Lion and the jewel, A Dance of the forests, and Death and the king's horseman. He is also a noted novelist , memoirist , essayist, and poet. He has been involved in international literary movements (Union of Writers of the African Peoples [UWAP] ) as well as global humanitarian efforts (Amnesty International, UNESCO), and is much in demand as a lecturer and speaker, known for his passionate commitment to civil liberty in his own country and around the world. In 1986, Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


The collection is organized into nine series:

Scope and Contents

This collection of Wole Soyinka's personal papers includes manuscripts and typescripts of his compositions, including the "Prison Diary" (handwritten notes penned between the lines of printed books while he was incarcerated), financial papers, correspondence and other materials concerning his work with the Union of Writers of the African Peoples (UWAP), and administrative correspondence and materials from his tenure as the Head of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife.
The collection also contains personal and professional correspondence, including the many greetings sent to congratulate him on his 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature. Correspondence regarding his compositions includes letters to and from publishers, copyright permissions, and correspondence concerning translations. Correspondents include American scholar and colleague Henry Louis Gates and London publisher Rex Collings. Soyinka has also participated in many United Nations activities regarding African development and child welfare, principally with UNESCO and UNICEF. The collection contains correspondence exhibiting Soyinka's involvement with humanitarian causes, including campaigns on behalf of writers suffering political persecution, principally Ken Saro-Wiwa, Tai Solarin, and Kofi Awoonor.
The collection also contains correspondence and other materials (programs/playbills, reviews, posters, etc.) related to theatrical productions of Wole Soyinka's plays, arranged alphabetically by title of play.
Biographical materials include clippings and other materials about Wole Soyinka and his life, such as biographical statements for inclusion in directories. There is also a small amount of correspondence related to Wole Soyinka's personal family life.

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