Geneva Townes Turner was the former wife of linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner. The couple met as students at Howard University and were married in 1919. Geneva Turner accompanied her husband in the early years of his work in the Sea Islands and assisted him in making recordings. Although her contributions went without acknowledgement in later years, she was the one who served as her "husband's associate and scribe" in his first years doing Gullah research. To prepare for that role, she learned phonetics in the evenings while teaching school during the day in Washington, D.C., and attended classes in international phonetics at Brown University. After their divorce in 1938, Turner taught public school in Washington, D.C. until her retirement in 1954. She was also instrumental in establishing the Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression, an African American school for the arts. Turner died in 1983 at the age of 89.
This collection, which dates from circa 1910-1976, contains the personal papers of Geneva Townes Turner and documents her family and her life with Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner. Materials include clippings, correspondence, marriage certificates, photographs, portraits, programs and scrapbooks.
Geneva Townes Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Eugene Townes
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