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.


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


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


Jackson presents a piano recital at Grace Presbyterian Church in Chicago


Jackson graduates from Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago


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


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”


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


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


Jackson marries Joseph Southern in August


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Southern joins the faculty of York College (CUNY) as an associate professor


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


Southern is promoted to full professor at York College in January 1972


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Southern leads a second National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar


Southern retires from Harvard at the end of the fall term


The Black Perspective in Music ceases publication


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


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


The third edition of The Music of Black Americans is published


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


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


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