Detail of the original Shuffle Along orchestra from The Music of Black Americans, 1st edition

This timeline charts significant moments in the life and career of Eileen Southern, together with selected events in U.S. racial history.

1920

Eileen Stanza Jackson is born on February 19 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Lilla Gibson Jackson and Walter Wade Jackson

1920

On June 15, three Black circus workers performing in Duluth, Minnesota (150 miles north of Minneapolis) are accused of raping a white woman and lynched by a mob

1932

Jackson presents a piano recital at Grace Presbyterian Church in Chicago

1936

Jackson graduates from Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago

1940

Jackson graduates from the University of Chicago with a BA in the Humanities (music)

1941

Jackson earns her MA in the Humanities (music) from the University of Chicago in August, having started in January of that year. Cecil Michener Smith advises her thesis, “The Use of Negro Folksong in Symphonic Forms”

1941

Jackson arrives on December 1 to begin a position as an instructor at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, a public, historically Black university in Prairie View, Texas. Joseph Southern is secretary to the registrar at Prairie View, and he and Eileen meet while working there

1941

The December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor draws the U.S. into World War II. The U.S. military is segregated throughout the war and remains so until 1948

1942

Jackson marries Joseph Southern in August

1942

Southern and her husband move to Charlotte, North Carolina for the 1942-43 school year; she teaches music at the Second Ward School, the first Black high school in the city which had opened in 1923

1943

Southern serves as an instructor at Southern University, a public, historically Black university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the 1943-44 and 1944-45 academic years

1945

Southern moves to Lorman, Mississippi and works as an instructor of music during the 1945-46 academic year at Alcorn A. & M. College, a public, historically Black institution

1946

Southern begins teaching at Claflin University, a private, historically Black university in Orangeburg, South Carolina. She develops the music major as assistant professor and department chair

1949

Southern returns to Southern University in Baton Rouge as an assistant professor for the 1949-50 and 1950-51 academic years

1951

Southern travels north during the summer to inquire about enrolling in the PhD program at Radcliffe College, the women’s college associated with Harvard University. Turned away, as she later recalls, she instead takes a course with Gustave Reese at New York University on the music of Renaissance composers Palestrina and Lassus

1952

Southern returns to New York City in January and lives in Harlem while beginning graduate coursework at NYU

1954

The US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education declares segregation of public schools to be unconstitutional

1954

Southern begins teaching music in junior high schools in the New York City Public School System, starting in the fall semester

1955

Southern performs one of her last major concerts as a pianist at the YMCA in Harlem on January 2, as reported in the Amsterdam News on January 15

1955

Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to perform a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7

1958

Southern serves as lecturer at Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY) for one academic year, starting in the fall, while she continues to teach junior high school

1960

Southern joins the faculty of Brooklyn College full-time in the fall

1961

Southern earns the PhD from New York University, completing a 2-volume dissertation titled “The Buxheim Organ Book”

1963

Southern learns of her promotion to assistant professor at Brooklyn College, which takes effect on January 1, 1964

1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in an attempt to end decades of inequality under Jim Crow laws

1968

Southern publishes "Foreign Music in German Manuscripts of the 15th Century" in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, becoming the first African American author in that scholarly journal

1968

A Black Studies department is founded at San Francisco State College and hailed as the first in the United States

1971

The first edition of The Music of Black Americans is published by W. W. Norton, together with Readings in Black American Music

1972

Southern joins the faculty of York College (CUNY) as an associate professor. She is promoted to full professor in January 1972

1973

Eileen and Joseph Southern publish the first issue of their academic journal, The Black Perspective in Music

1974

Southern begins teaching one course at Harvard while still working full time at York College; she does so for the 1974-75 academic year and the fall term of 1975

1976

Southern begins her appointment as a tenured full professor and chair of Harvard’s Department of Afro-American Studies in January

1979

Southern is on leave for the spring term after three calendar years of chairing the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard

1982

Southern leads her first NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) summer seminar at Harvard

1982

Southern publishes Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians with Greenwood Press

1983

The second edition of The Music of Black Americans is published together with that of Readings in Black American Music

1986

Southern leads a second National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar

1986

Southern retires from Harvard at the end of the fall term

1990

The Black Perspective in Music ceases publication

1992

New Perspectives on Music: Essays in Honor of Eileen Southern is published, edited by Josephine Wright with Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.

1996

George Walker becomes the first African American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music, a prize first awarded in 1943

1997

The third edition of The Music of Black Americans is published

2000

Southern receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for American Music

2001

Southern receives the National Humanities Medal for “having helped transform the study and understanding of American music”

2002

Southern dies on October 13 in Port Charlotte, Florida due to complications from Alzheimer’s