The papers of Francis P. Conant document his anthropological work and, to a lesser extent, his previous career as a journalist and photographer. Francis Paine Conant was a cultural anthropologist who pioneered the use of satellite data in anthropology. He conducted fieldwork in Nigeria and Kenya, and his research interests spanned cultural ecology, AIDS, malaria, and sex and gender studies. He was also Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Hunter College, where he taught from 1962 to 1995.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of Francis P. Conant document his anthropological work and, to a lesser extent, his previous career as a journalist and photographer. The bulk of the collection consists of his field work in Africa, specifically his doctoral research among the Barawa in Nigeria during the 1950s; his work among the Pokot in Kenya for Walter Goldschimdt's Culture and Ecology in East Africa Project during the 1960s; and his later research among the Pokot during the 1970s incorporating remote sensing tools. These materials include his dissertation, field notes, kinship charts, maps, correspondence, photographs, and sound recordings. The collection also contains photographs, correspondence, and writings relating to the Bernheim-Conant expedition through Africa. Among the photos are Polaroids of Mohammad Naguib, first president of Egypt. Also present in the collection are his published and unpublished academic writings, his writings and correspondence as a news correspondent in Finland, and files from courses that he taught. In addition, the collection contains some of Conant's digital files, which have not yet been examined. Overall there is little correspondence in the collection, aside from some letters scattered throughout the collection relating to his research and writings (both as an academic and a journalist).
Collection is organized into 9 series: 1) Nigeria, 1956-1960, undated; 2) Kenya, 1961-1974, undated; 3) Remote Sensing, 1967, 1971, 1976-1984, 1991-1992, 2002; 4) Bernheim-Conant Expedition, 1953-1956; 5) Writings, 1960-1966, 1974-1995, 2000-2006, undated; 6) University Files, 1956-1957, 1961, 1970, 1972, 1982-1995, undated; 7) Biographical Files and Letters, circa 1940, CIRCA 1946-1947, 1951, 1955, 1979, 1989-1991, 1996-2000, 2007-2011, undated; 8) Sound Recordings, 1956-1965, 1971, 1977-1978, undated; 9) Digital Files
Biographical / Historical:
Francis Paine Conant was a cultural anthropologist who pioneered the use of satellite data in anthropology. He conducted fieldwork in Nigeria and Kenya, and his research interests spanned cultural ecology, AIDS, malaria, and sex and gender studies. He was also Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Hunter College, where he taught from 1962 to 1995.
Conant was born on February 27, 1926 in New York City. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, he deferred college to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1944. He served as a field artillery observer for the 294th Field Artillery Battalion and helped liberate two concentration camps during World War II. After he was honorably discharged in 1946, he attended Cornell University, where he obtained his B.A. in 1950. While at Cornell, a Finnish student invited Conant to Finland to help relocate families, farms, and livestock further from the Russian border, a protective measure against another Russian invasion. Conant accepted his invitation and took time off from his academic studies to spend several months in Finland in 1947, as well as a summer in 1949.
After graduating from Cornell, Conant attended University of Iowa's graduate writing program for a short time. Dissatisfied with the program, he worked briefly for the Carnegie Endowment, during which time he occasionally served as a personal driver for Alger Hiss. In 1951, he returned to Finland to pursue a career in journalism. He worked for United Press International until 1953.
From December 5, 1953 to May 26, 1954, Conant traveled throughout Africa as part of the Bernheim-Conant Expedition for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The expedition was led by Claude Bernheim, the father of his first wife, Miriam. They traveled 16,000 miles through Northern Central and Eastern Africa, collecting film footage and material culture for the museum. Conant served as the writer and photographer for the expedition, publishing illustrated articles in the New York Times and Natural History Magazine.
He later returned to Africa as a doctoral student at Columbia University, where he earned his PhD in Anthropology in 1960. After studying the Hausa language at the International African Institute in London, he traveled to Nigeria as a Fellow of the Ford Foundation to carry out his fieldwork in Dass Independent District, Bauchi Province. Working among the Barawa that live in the mountains of Dass, he focused on their religion and its impact on the technology, social and political organization, and structure of their society. His dissertation was titled "Dodo of Dass: A Study of a Pagan Religion of Northern Nigeria." During his fieldwork, he also collected data on rock gongs, which were first identified and written about by Bernard Fagg in 1955.
In 1961 to 1962, Conant was a research associate for Walter Goldschmidt's Culture and Ecology in East Africa Project. The purpose of the project was to conduct a controlled comparison of four different East African societies and the farmers and pastoralists within each tribe. Conant was assigned to conduct ethnographic research among the Pokot in West Pokot District in Kenya. This research would form the basis of his remote sensing work in the same area more than a decade later.
Conant was first introduced to remote sensing data in 1974 when his colleague Priscilla Reining showed him Landsat imagery of one his former fieldwork sites. He was inspired by the potential applications of satellite data to study cultural and ecological relationships. In 1975, he and Reining organized a workshop on "Satellite Potentials for Anthropological Studies of Subsistence Activities and Population Change." He incorporated remote sensing tools in his 1977 to 1980 study of the changing cultivation patterns and management of livestock in West Pokot District. His research combined traditional fieldwork (which included data he had collected in the 1960s), LANDSAT data, and geospatial data collected from the ground.
Later in his career, Conant's research interests expanded to include the spread of diseases, specifically AIDS and malaria. He, along with Priscilla Reining, John Bongaarts, and Peter Way found that uncircumcised men were 86% more likely to contract HIV than circumcised men. Their findings were published in their paper "The Relationship Between Male Circumcision and HIV Infection in African Populations" (1989). His research on malaria focused on the spread of the disease during African prehistory.
Conant taught briefly at Columbia University and was an Assistant Professor at University of Massachusetts, at Amherst in 1960-1961. Most of his academic career was spent at Hunter College, where he served as Chair of the Anthropology Department several times. He also founded and headed the college's Research Institute in Aruba.
Conant was a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University's Pitts Rivers Museum in 1968-1969. He was also a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International African Institute, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Anthropological Institute. In addition, he was actively involved with the Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal.
Conant died at the age of 84 on January 29, 2011.
Bates, Daniel G. 2011. Francis P. Conant: A Tribute to a Friend of Human Ecology. Human Ecology 39(2): 115.
Bates, Daniel and Oliver Conant. Francis P. Conant. Anthropology News. 52(5): 25.
Conant, Veronika. Email message to Lorain Wang, October 22, 2013.
[Curriculum Vitae], Series 7. Biographical Files and Letters, Francis Conant Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Francis P. Conant. http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/anthropology/faculty-staff/in-remembrance/francis-p.-conant [accessed August 23, 2013].
1926 -- Born February 27 in New York City, New York
1944-1946 -- Enlists in Army and serves in World War II as a flash ranger in 294th Field Artillery Battalion
1950 -- Earns B.A. from Cornell University in English and Russian, minor in Engineering
1953-1954 -- AMNH Bernheim-Conant Expedition to northern Africa
1957 -- Conducts language studies at the International African Institute
1957-1959 -- Conducts fieldwork in northern Nigeria
1960 -- Earns PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University
1960-1961 -- Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
1961-1962 -- Research Associate for Culture and Ecology in East Africa Project directed by Walter Goldschimdt
1962 -- Joins faculty at Hunter College
1968-1969 -- Fulbright Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University, Pitt-Rivers Museum
1977-1980 -- Sets up remote sensing monitoring area in West Pokot district in Kenya. Studies changing cultivation patterns and management of livestock
1995 -- Retires from Hunter College; Emeritus Professor
2011 -- Dies on January 29 at the age of 84
For additional materials at the National Anthropological Archives relating to Francis Conant, see the papers of Priscilla Reining and John Lawrence Angel.
His film collection is at the Human Studies Film Archives.
Artifacts and film collected during the Bernheim-Conant Expedition, his doctoral research in Nigeria, and his fieldwork in Kenya during the 1960s and 70s are at the American Museum of Natural History. He also deposited collections at the Pitts River Museum at the University of Oxford.
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Francis Conant's widow Veronika Conant in 2012.
The Francis P. Conant Papers are open for research. Access to the Francis P. Conant Papers requires an appointment.
Francis P. Conant Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The papers of Francis P. Conant were processed with the assistance of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to Veronika Conant. Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.
James Baldwin was a writer and an activist and is one of the most prominent voices from his generation to bring light to issues of racial and sexual discrimination. This collection contains correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, and awards. The collection provides insight into his family, writing process, and travels during his lifetime.
Scope and Contents:
The James Baldwin Collection provides insight into Baldwin's life as a writer and activist. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, and awards. A significant portion of the collection are photographs by photojournalist Frank Dandridge. The collection focuses on Baldwin's grade school educational career, his writing process, as well as his thoughts about social equality and civil rights.
The materials in this collection have been kept at the folder level and separated into six series. The materials have been ordered and organized based on the content. Series 6 has been broken down into a smaller subseries dedicated to the Frank Dandridge photographic prints. Series 8: Oversize Materials acts as an extension of the first five series, with materials that could not be housed with their corresponding materials due to size constraints. Within each series and subseries, the folders are organized as close to the collection's original order as when it was acquired.
James Arthur Baldwin (1924–1987) was born in Harlem, New York, on August 2, 1924, to Emma Berdis Jones, originally from Princess Anne, Maryland. He was reared by his mother and stepfather David Baldwin, whom Baldwin referred to as his father and whom he describes as extremely strict. He did not know his biological father. As the oldest of nine children, Baldwin took seriously the responsibility of being a big brother and his mother's right hand. He cared for and protected his three younger brothers and five sisters in a household governed by the rigid rules of their father, a Baptist preacher, originally from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, Baldwin, himself, became a preacher at the Fireside Pentecostal Assembly, where he developed a celebrated preaching style. Baldwin's brief experience in the church would have a sustained impact on his rhetorical style and on the themes, symbols, and biblical allusions in his writings. Baldwin's Pentecostal experience is, in fact, essential to understanding his complex views on Christianity, which he espoused in his speeches and publications. His experience would also serve in part as the underpinnings of his stance on religion. In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin proclaims, "If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, it is time we got rid of Him."
During his early teen years, Baldwin attended Frederick Douglass Junior High School, where he met his French teacher and mentor Countee Cullen, who achieved prominence as a poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Baldwin went on to DeWitt Clinton High School, where he edited the school newspaper The Magpie and participated in the literary club, just as Cullen had done when he was a student there. By high school graduation, he had met his close friends at DeWitt Clinton—Richard Avedon, Emile Capouya, and Sol Stein.
The 1940s marked several turning points in Baldwin's life. In 1942, he graduated from high school, and a year later he witnessed the New York Race Riots and experienced the death of his father. After this emotional loss, Baldwin felt more than ever it was important to play father figure to his siblings. He worked at menial jobs during the day, and at night he played guitar in Greenwich Village cafes and wrote long hours, trying to fulfill his dream of becoming a writer.
In 1944, Baldwin met Richard Wright, whose written work spoke to his heart and who would also become a mentor. Baldwin appreciated Wright's strong opinions about race in America, and he greatly valued their intellectual exchange. Wright helped Baldwin to obtain a fellowship to write his first novel, which enabled him to leave for Paris in 1948, where the older writer had relocated a few years earlier. However, the two were often at odds about the ways in which they approached race in their work. Baldwin wrote three essays explicating his critique of Wright's "protest art." This conflict eventually led to the demise of their friendship.
In 1948, at age twenty-four, Baldwin left the United States to live in Paris, France, as he could not tolerate the racial and sexual discrimination he experienced on a daily basis. Professor Kendall Thomas of Columbia Law School explains that Baldwin left his country because of racism and Harlem because of homophobia--two aspects of his identity that made him a frequent target of beatings by local youth and the police. Years later, when asked about his departure, Baldwin explained in a Paris Review interview: "My luck was running out. I was going to go to jail, I was going to kill somebody or be killed" (1984). In Paris, Baldwin began to interact with other writers. He reconnected with Richard Wright, and for the first time, he met Maya Angelou, with whom he maintained a close relationship.
Baldwin would spend the next forty years abroad, where he wrote and published most of his works. Between 1960 and 1970, Baldwin lived regularly in Istanbul, Turkey. Still, the violence and assassinations in the United States during the politically turbulent 1960s took an emotional toll on Baldwin. After the assassination of his three friends—Medgar Evers in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968—Baldwin suffered an emotional breakdown and eventually moved to the South of France to recuperate. In 1970, he settled in a house in the village of St. Paul de Vence, where he would live the rest of his life.
During his years abroad, Baldwin returned to the United States frequently and considered himself a "transatlantic commuter." In 1955, he signed a lease for an apartment at 63 West 97th Street in New York, and from the mid 1960s on, he maintained a home at 137 West 71st Street in Manhattan. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Baldwin was actually living in California. Many of Baldwin's extended visits were to spend time with his large and beloved family and to participate in Civil Rights Movement events. He attended the March on Washington in 1963 and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Baldwin also participated in literary events, such as the 1965 conference titled "The Negro Writer's Vision of America" sponsored by the New School of Social Research in New York. During his presentation, Baldwin addressed the conference theme, stating, "I know a story which America denies. And it denies it for the very good reason that my story, once told, confronts it with the truth about itself. In fact, my story, once told, will liberate America. The possibility of liberation—the necessity of becoming responsible for one's own life—is what most people most profoundly fear."
Baldwin passed away on November 30, 1987, in his house in St. Paul de Vence after a short battle with stomach cancer. A week later, he was laid to rest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in New York. Family members and friends participated in a large service during which Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, and Maya Angelou delivered touching remarks about their friend and brother. Angelou stated that Baldwin's love "opened the unusual door for me, and I am blessed that James Baldwin was my brother."
Literary and Civil Rights Timeline
1924 -- Born August 2nd
1938 -- Graduates from Frederick Douglass Junior High School, where his early ambitions in writing were encouraged by his teacher Countee Cullen, the Harlem Renaissance poet
1942 -- Graduates from DeWitt Clinton High School, where he was a member of the literary club and edited the school newspaper The Magpie
1944 -- Meets writer Richard Wright, who refers Baldwin's first draft of Go Tell It On The Mountain to Harper and Brothers publishing house
1945 -- Receives a $500.00 Saxton Fellowship from Harper and Brothers; the first draft of Go Tell It On The Mountain is rejected by Harper and Doubleday; Baldwin begins writing reviews for The Nation and The New Leader
1947 -- Publishes essay "History as Nightmare" in The New Leader
1948 -- Publishes essay "The Harlem Ghetto" and short story "Previous Condition" in Commentary; Baldwin moves to Paris
1949 -- Publishes "Everybody's Protest Novel," in which he critics Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Richard Wright's Native Son; jailed in Paris for eight days for theft (falsely accused of stealing hotel bed sheets)
1951 -- Publishes "Many Thousands Gone" in the Partisan Review; attack on Richard Wright leads to breakup; Baldwin completes Go Tell It On the Mountain in Switzerland, where he stayed three months with Swiss friend and lover Lucien Happersberger
1953 -- Publishes "Stranger in the Village" in Harper's Magazine; the essay is based on his stay in Switzerland
1954 -- Wins Guggenheim Fellowship; attends MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire
1955 -- Attends Yadao, an artists' community in Sarasota Springs, New York; revises Amen Corner during Howard University rehearsals and publishes it the same year; also publishes the collection of essays Notes of a Native Son and an autobiographical narrative "Equal in Paris," about being jailed in Paris in 1949, originally published in Commentary magazine
1956 -- Publishes Giovanni's Room with Dial Press; accepts National Institute of Arts and Letters Award and a Partisan Review fellowship; covers First Conference of Negro and African Writers and Artists at the Sorbonne, sponsored by Presence Africanize
1957 -- Publishes "Sonny's Blues" in the Partisan Review; Travels to the South on assignment for the Partisan Review, where he interviews student protests and meets with Martin Luther King, Jr.
1959 -- Awarded a two-year Ford Foundation grand to complete Another Country; Interviews film director Ingmar Bergman in Sweden; publishes essay "A Letter From the South: Nobody Knows My Name" in the Partisan Review ; apprentice on Elia Kazan's productions of Sweet Bird of Youth and J.B.
1960 -- Covers sit-ins in Tallahassee, Florida; interviews student at Florida A & M; published "They Can't Turn Back" in Mademoiselle Magazine; Richard Wright dies suddenly
1961 -- Publishes second collection of essays Nobody Knows My Name, Dial Press; publishes the essay "Alas, Poor Richard," another scathing critic of Richard Wright's work; appears on radio and television to promote Nobody Knows My Name and to speak about civil rights; meets Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X; completes Another Country; Swiss television produces "Stranger in the Village"; publishes the "Black Boy Looks at the White Boy"; makes first visit to Turkey at the invitation of Turkish actor Engin Cezzar
1962 -- Publishes Another Country, Dial Press, and it becomes a national best seller; Baldwin travels to West Africa; "Letter from a Region in My Mind" published in The New Yorker, later printed in The Fire Next Time as "Down at the Cross"
1963 -- Publishes The Fire Next Time to national acclaim; appears on the cover of May 17th issue of Time magazine; NAACP Field Secretary and friend Medgar Evers is assassinated on June 12 outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi; starts lecture tour for CORE in the South and the North; registers voters in Alabama for SNCC; wins Polk Memorial Award for outstanding magazine journalism; participates in March on Washington; travels to Nairobi, Kenya, with Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier to celebrate Kenya's independence
1964 -- Elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters; publishes the play Blues for Mr. Charlie, Dial Press, and theater production of Blues for Mr. Charlie appears at the historic American National Theater and Academy (ANTA) in New York; publishes Nothing Personal with photographer and high school friend Richard Avedon, Atheneum Books
1965 -- Debates William F. Buckley at Cambridge and receives standing ovation for his response to "Is the American Dream at the Expense of the American Negro?"; Malcolm X is assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity; Baldwin attends Selma to Montgomery March; publishes Going to Meet the Man, Dial Press; The play The Amen Corner is performed in New York, Israel, and Europe
1968 -- Publishes the novel Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, Dial Press; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; Baldwin speaks at the World Council of Churches in Sweden against apartheid in South Africa; testifies at a Congressional hearing in support of a commission to establish a national museum of African American history and culture; receives personal attacks from Soul on Ice author Eldridge Cleaver
1969 -- Publishes New York Times article "The Price May Be Too High" about black writers in a white publishing industry; directs John Herbert's "Fortune and Men's Eyes" in Istanbul, Turkey
1970 -- Becomes the subject of photographs and a short film From Another Place , both by Sedat Pakay in Istanbul; holds conversations with anthropologist Margaret Mead titled "A Rap On Race"
1971 -- Baldwin and anthropologist Margaret Mead publish the transcript of conversations held in New York in 1970 in a co-authored book titled A Rap On Race; publishes "An Open Letter to My Sister Angela Davis" in New York Times Review of Books; moves to a house in St. Paul de Vence in the South of France
1972 -- Publishes No Name In The Street, Dial Press; publishes the screenplay One Day When I Was Lost, based on Alex Haley's bestselling classic The Autobiography of Malcolm X .
1973 -- Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates secures rare interview with James Baldwin and Josephine Baker together in James Baldwin's house in St. Paul de Vence, France; Baldwin appears with television host and poet Nikki Giovanni on "Soul," and the transcript is published as a dialogue
1974 -- Publishes If Beale Street Could Talk, Dial Press; becomes the third recipient (after writer Tennessee Williams and dancer Martha Graham) of the prestigious Centennial Medal awarded to "The Artist As Prophet" by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York
1976 -- Publishes what would be his only children's book Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood, with illustrations by Yoran Cazac, Dial Press; publishes the book-length essay The Devil Finds Work
1978 -- Teaches a spring course in contemporary literature at Bowling Green State University in Ohio (returns in the fall of 1979 and 1981); awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Medal
1979 -- Publishes Just Above My Head, his sixth and last novel, Dial Press; goes into seclusion after friend and mentor Beauford Delaney dies in March; teaches at UC Berkeley in the spring and speaks in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara; begins writing and lecturing on black English; publishes "Open Letter to the Born Again" in The Nation; meets Chinua Achebe at the University of Florida, African Literature Association; travels throughout the South
1982 -- Film makers Dick Fontaine and Pat Harley release television documentary of Baldwin' trip through the South "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
1983 -- Publishes selected poems in Jimmy's Blues, St. Martin's Press; teaches Afro American Studies at University of Amherst in the fall
1984 -- Hospitalized for exhaustion; works on the play The Welcome Table
1985 -- Publishes "Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood" in Playboy; American Playhouse dramatizes Go Tell It On The Mountain; publishes The Evidence of Things Not Seen, Holt, Rinehart & Winston Publishing; publishes The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-Fiction, 1948–1985, St. Martin's Press
1986 -- Receives France's highest civilian recognition, the Legion of Honor; travels to the Soviet Union for an international conference and to London for a production of Amen Corner ; suffers fatigue and becomes ill
1987 -- Returns to St. Paul de Vence and is diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, which spreads to the stomach; grants his last interview to poet and journalist Quincy Troop in mid-November in bed at his home; dies November 30 and his friend and assistant publicly announces his death December 1; memorials are held in St. Paul de Vence and Harlem; is eulogized by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Amiri Baraka at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York; body buried at Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York
Acquired as a purchase from Baldwin's sister, Paula Baldwin Whaley in 2017.
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