The Memoirs of Alton Augustus Adams, Sr: First Black Bandmaster of the United States Navy

By Alton Augustus Adams Sr.; Mark Clague | Go to book overview

Editorial Methods

Mark Clague

The first notice of Adams’s memoirs project is found in the Weekly Journal of St. Thomas in June 1973.1 Alton Augustus Adams, Sr., worked on these memoirs over approximately fourteen years. The complete resultant manuscript, which is published here for the first time, seems to be the product of two periods of work: chapters 1 through 6, 8, and 11 were written throughout the 1970s and intended for publication as a whole, and chapters 7, 9, and 10 were added in the early 1980s. Over time, pages from the manuscript were separated and some lost, while unique copies of the three later chapters, along with a scrapbook and other manuscript materials, were given by Adams to Virgin Islands historian Isidor Paiewonsky and thus separated from the whole. Despite over a decade of labors, multiple revisions, and the assistance of two collaborating scholars, George Tyson and Samuel Floyd, the manuscript remained unfinished at the author’s death in 1987.

The process of reconstructing the full text from among Adams’s many manuscripts revealed the memoirs to be a collage of previous writings combined with new text, drawing upon a lifetime of writing and observation. The goal of my editing was to produce a coherent, clear, and accurate version of Adams’s book while preserving his literary voice. I have chosen to produce not a critical edition but a scholarly realization informed by historical sources and archival research. It is hoped that this method presents Adams’s thought in as compelling, accurate, and complete a form as possible and thus serves both general readers and scholars. Structurally, the body text and footnotes of the memoirs are Adams’s own, and my editor’s introduction and the notes at the back offer my own editorial and scholarly commentary.

All known manuscript sources for the memoirs are held in the Alton Augustus Adams Collection (AAC) at the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), Columbia College Chicago, and the Adams Music

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