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MC 861; T-523; Vt-293; Phon-70

Parker, Pat, 1944-1989. Papers of Pat Parker, 1944-1998. A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 861; T-523; Vt-293; Phon-70
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Title: Papers of Pat Parker, 1944-1998
Date(s): 1944-1998
Quantity: 8.46 linear feet (17 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio volume, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 12 photograph folders, 14 audiotapes, 6 videotapes, 1 phonograph record)
Quantity: .74 Megabytes (41 files)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: The papers of poet Pat Parker include journals; personal and professional correspondence; drafts; published and unpublished writings; reviews; articles; photographs; flyers, programs; publicity; periodicals; audiovisual material; and electronic records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 2016-M5
The papers of Pat Parker were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Anastasia J. Dunham-Parker-Brady in January 2016.

Processing Information:

Processed: June 2016
By: Amber L. Moore, with assistance from Dan Bullman, Alexis Bucher, and Rose Oliveira.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. Folder #5.12 is closed until January 1, 2050. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material. For access to electronic records please contact the reference desk.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Pat Parker is held by Anastasia J. Dunham-Parker-Brady. Upon her death, she transfers copyright to Akiva James Brady and Arianna Rose Brady. Upon the death of Akiva James Brady and Arianna Rose Brady, if it has not already expired, copyright in the unpublished papers in the collection transfers and is assigned to the President and Fellows of Harvard College along with all right, title and interest, including copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the author's heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Pat Parker Papers, 1944-1998; item description, dates. MC 861, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donors: Anastasia J. Dunham-Parker-Brady
Accession number: 2016-M5
Processed by: Amber L. Moore
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:


African American feminist lesbian poet Pat (Cooks) Parker was born on January 20, 1944. Parker grew up in Houston, Texas, the fourth daughter of Marie Louise (Anderson) and Ernest Nathaniel Cooks. Moving to California at age 17, she studied at Los Angeles City College. In 1962 she married Ed Bullins, a playwright and member of the Black Panthers. In the Bay area, she studied at San Francisco State College. Bullins and Parker ended their relationship and she then married Robert F. Parker. In the late 1960s, Parker began to identify as a lesbian and divorced Robert Parker. She had committed relationships with Laura Brown and Martha Dunham. She had two children, Cassidy, with Laura Brown and Anastasia with Martha Dunham.
Parker held a number of jobs in Oakland, California, including proofreading, waiting tables, teaching creative writing, and office work. Parker gave her first public poetry reading in 1963. Her first book of poetry, Child of Myself, appeared in 1972 followed by Pit Stop in 1973. In 1976 Parker and lesbian poet Judy Grahn released a phonograph album, Where Would I Be Without You. In 1978 Parker became director of Oakland's Feminist Women's Health Center and in 1980 she founded the Black Women's Revolutionary Council, a group of revolutionary feminists intended to educate people about the effects of racism, classism, and sexism. Other works included Womanslaughter (1978), Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961-1978 (1978), and Jonestown and Other Madness (1985). Parker died on June 17, 1989, of breast cancer in Oakland, California.


The collection is arranged in six series:


The collection documents like of Pat Parker, an African American feminist lesbian poet. The collection contains biographical and personal materials, such as clippings and passports; as well as correspondence; writings, including both published and unpublished work by Parker; subject files; and photographs. Audiovisual material consisting of poetry readings, live performances, and interviews. Electronic records were received on 5.25 inch floppy disks. The data was retrieved and saved as text files and converted into pdfs. The electronic records include drafts of letters and writings, and a photograph. The papers were in order when received and have been arranged further by the archivist.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1944-1989 (#1.1-1.17, FD.1, Mem.1-Mem.3), contains biographical information about Parker, material related to her divorces from playwright Ed Bullins (1965) and poet Bob Parker (1971), her passports, and obituaries and articles about her death in 1989. Also included is a handmade poster of Zora Neale Hurston which asks "Ms. Parker, Would Zora be proud of your work today?" which hung in her studio. Of particular interest is Parker's five year vision proposal for future readings/speaking engagements, marketing, writing workshops, studio space, financial planning, and personal writing goals. The series is arranged in alphabetical order.
Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1964-1989 (#1.18-8.5, E.1), consists mostly of incoming personal letters from family, fans, and friends discussing feminism, race relations, poetry, and romantic relationships. Correspondence was originally arranged by Parker alphabetically by correspondent.
Family correspondence includes love letters and daily notes from Parker's partner, Marty Dunham; letters from Parker's mother, Marie Cooks (#2.20-2.22) discussing updates on family; and letters from her sister, Shirley Cooks Jones (#4.21) about race relations, marriage, relationships, and travel. Jones is the subject of Parker's book Womanslaughter, which discusses Jones' murder by her husband in 1971.
Fans of Parker's work often sent letters with samples of their own writings for review and comment; and correspondence with friends (mostly poets and writers) includes letters about Parker's writings, invitations, and inquires about Parker's health. Of particular note are letters between Parker and Audre Lorde discussing their work and lives as African American lesbian feminists, race relations, relationships, cancer and chemotherapy; letters and poetry from Native American poet Chrystos (#2.16) discussing her and Parker's romantic relationship; and letters from Judy Grahn (#4.14) about feminism, writing, and updates on her life.
Work-related correspondence includes letters about poetry reading tours, book signings, publishing, and other literary activities. The series is arranged in alphabetical order by correspondent as per Parker's original arrangement. General alphabetical folders follow named correspondents.
Series III, WRITINGS, 1965-1988 (#8.6-13.14, 18F+B.1-18F+B.6, E.2), contains both published and unpublished works by Parker, including early poems, journals, short stories, plays, and other writings. The major themes reflected in Parker's writings are activism, feminism, friendship, injustice, lesbianism, love, homophobia, parenting, and racism. The bulk of the series consists of handwritten drafts and photocopies of poems written by Parker, some with multiple revisions, notes and edits. Of particular interest are journals with handwritten drafts of poetry written by Parker. Poetry was originally arranged by Parker individually by title.
Scrapbooks including clippings, flyers, and posters which were assembled by Parker to document her readings and other literary events. Promotional material also includes printed mementos from her readings. Miscellaneous writings include notes, ideas on original drafts of "works in progress" as identified by Parker. Of particular interest are drawings, notes and poems written during Parker's "acid trips" on LSD. This series is arranged alphabetically. Where possible, Parker's original folder titles were retained. The archivist's folder titles are identified in brackets.
Series IV, SUBJECT FILES, 1974-1989 (#13.15-17.22), contains correspondence and printed material on various topics including Bay Area writers, black lesbianism, cancer, conferences, softball, and administrative material related to poetry reading requests accepted and declined by Parker. Of particular interest are press releases and sign-up sheets related to Parker's involvement with the Black Women's Revolutionary Council, a group of revolutionary feminists aimed to educate people about the effects of racism, classism, and sexism; and uncorrected galleys of Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals sent for Parker's review. Also included are letters, research, programs and flyers, from Parker's trip to Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. The series is arranged alphabetically
Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1978-1989 (#PD.1-PD.13, E.3), contains photographs of Pat Parker, as well as images of her family and friends. Of particular interest are photographs of Parker with poets Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich. Also included are photograph albums of Parker's trip to Nairobi, Kenya in 1985, as well as publicity shots and images of Parker performing with the Varied Voices of Black Women in Washington, D.C. The series is arranged chronologically. Undated photographs are arranged alphabetically by title
Series VI, AUDIOVISUAL MATERIAL, 1976-1998 (#Phon-070.1, T-523.1-T-523.14, Vt-293.1-Vt-293.6), contains audio cassettes, videotapes, and a phonograph of poetry readings, live performances, interviews, and informal recordings that document Pat Parker's personal and professional life. Titles are largely those written on the original tape. This series is arranged into three subseries:
Subseries A, Personal, 1979-1998 (#T-523.1-T-523.5, Vt-293.1-Vt-293.4), contains audiocassettes and video recordings that document Parker's personal life and capture some of her everyday life and interests. This includes recordings of her softball games, Spanish lessons, recordings of family on answering machines and an astrology reading. Also included are relaxation tapes made to prepare her for surgery and memorials and tributes to her after her death. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries B, Poetry and interviews by or with Parker, 1976-1988 (#Phon-070.1, T-523.6-T-523.8, Vt-293.5-Vt-293.6), contains audio cassettes, video tapes, and phonograph recordings of Parker's poetry readings as well as interviews conducted by or with Parker. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Other recordings, 1981-1986 (#T-523.9-T-523.14), contains audiocassette recordings primarily made by other people for Parker. This includes audio letters to Parker and performances by other artists which Parker collected. Also included are dictations for the Feminist Health Center.
Arranged chronologically within each subseries.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

African American poets--20th century
African American women
Authors, American--20th century
Electronic records
Feminist poetry, American
Feminists--United States
Homosexuality and literature--United States
Lesbian mothers--California
Lesbians--United States
Lesbians' writings, American
Mothers and daughters
Phonograph records
Poets, American--Family relationships--20th century
Poets--United States
Women authors, American--20th century
Women poets, American--20th century
Love poetry, American
Women political activists--United States
Bullins, Ed
Diana Press
Grahn, Judy, 1940-
Jordan, June, 1936-2002
Lorde, Audre
Moraga, Cherrie
National Women's Music Festival
Rich, Adrienne, 1929-2012