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Eileen Southern, 82; Taught African American Music

October 20, 2002|From Times Wire Reports

Eileen Jackson Southern, an authority on Renaissance and African American music and Harvard University's first tenured black female professor, has died. She was 82.

Southern died Oct. 13 in Port Charlotte, Fla., of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Born in Minneapolis in 1920, Southern studied piano and played her first concert in Chicago at age 7.

Southern attended Chicago public schools, earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1940, her master's the following year and a doctorate in musicology from New York University in 1961. She also studied piano at Chicago Musical College, at Boston University and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

She taught at Prairie View University in Texas, Southern University, Brooklyn College, and York College of the City University of New York, before going to Harvard in 1974 as a lecturer.

She became a full professor in 1976, with a dual appointment in Afro-American studies and music. Between 1975 and 1979, she headed the Department of Afro-American Studies, before retiring in 1987.

She wrote and edited many works, including "The Music of Black Americans, a History" (1970), which has become essential reading for those interested in the subject.

In 1973, she and her husband, Joseph Southern, established "Black Perspectives in Music," the first musicological journal on the study of black music.

In 2000, she was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of American Music.

In April, President Bush honored her as a National Humanities Medalist for her work.

She is survived by her husband, who is also a retired Harvard professor; a son, Edward Southern; a daughter, April Myra Southern; and a sister, Stella Hall.

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