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Philippa Schuyler Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Schuyler, Philippa.
Title: Philippa Schuyler Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1930-1970
Quantity: 9 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the African-American pianist, composer, journalist and author. Correspondence, clippings, concert programs, printed material, scrapbooks, and writings.
Language: English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Portuguese
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Philippa Duke Schuyler (1931-1967) was an African-American pianist, composer, journalist and author. Her father George Schuyler was also a noted playwright and journalist.

Philippa Schuyler was born on August 2nd, 1931 to Josephine Cogdell Schuyler and George S. Schuyler. Josephine was a white Texan from a ranching and banking family and George Schuyler was a highly esteemed black journalist. Philippa, therefore, was of mixed race. Josephine was extraordinarily attentive to Philippa’s education and Philippa showed herself to be remarkably gifted. At two years old, Philippa was featured in New York newspapers for her exceptional spelling abilities. By the age of four, Philippa was a noted pianist playing public recitals and radio broadcasts, usually playing some of her own well-received compositions. At age eight, her IQ was tested to be 185. The media had branded her a child prodigy.

Her parents, particularly Josephine, eschewed terms like prodigy or genius for their daughter and instead attributed Philippa’s exceptional talents to a diet of raw food and a "careful education." Josephine was quoted by the New York Herald Tribune, in one of Philippa’s earliest appearances in the newspapers (August 3, 1934), as saying "she’s not a genius or a prodigy or anything like that. It’s just taking pains and keeping her well." Then, a few months later in the scrapbook, Josephine pasted a typed report of Philippa’s development in which she complained, "People insist on calling you a prodigy. I think it is because that is easier to understand. " She also pasted a clipping about child prodigies into the scrapbook with the accompanying caption: "Discouraging forecasts about child prodigies, you are included, although I have tried to make it clear to everyone that I do not consider you a prodigy- but the public loves magic and the newspapers must cater to the limitations of their readers."

The family lived in Harlem, New York. George spent most of Philippa's childhood traveling as a correspondent journalist and lecturer. As a child, Philippa had no contact with her mother’s family (with the exception of one of Josephine's sisters who visited Harlem once when Philippa was three years old). George’s family, particularly his sister Louise, visited regularly and were close to Philippa. Other guests of the Schuyler household included prominent African-American figures and other intellectuals. Philippa had extremely limited contact with other young children.

Philippa spent very few years in schools but instead had private tutors visit the apartment in Harlem. These tutors, in addition to a variety of music instructors, were affordable for the Schuylers only with Philippa’s performance income. Having Philippa perform so many concerts was a point of dispute between Josephine and several of Philippa’s piano teachers. Those teachers argued that despite Philippa’s diligent and rigorous practicing schedule, the steady stream of concerts negatively affected her musical education by inflating her confidence and interrupting her study of technique. Even so, the critics lauded her performances consistently, praising her obvious propensity for music.

By the time she had proven herself to be more than just a child prodigy, Philippa faced the injustice of racism when trying to book performances as a talented young pianist. Throughout the 1950s, she booked tours throughout South America and Europe with strong audience turnouts and excellent reviews, but was consistently unable to find sponsorship from white organizations in the United States.

In her thirties, Philippa changed careers from exclusively being a concert pianist to also working as a journalist like her father. She worked for the Manchester Union Leader of New Hampshire and was a correspondent to Vietnam when, in 1967, she died in a helicopter crash near Da Nang. She was helping escort young Vietnamese orphans to safety when the U.S. Army helicopter low-leveled into the ocean at a very high speed. Philippa, the young boy who had been sitting on her lap, and twenty year old Pfc. Michael Elmy drowned.

After Philippa’s sudden death, Josephine wrote a series of memorial poetry dedicated to her beloved daughter. Josephine took her own life in 1969. George Schuyler died in 1977.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Philippa Schuyler Collection contains correspondence, clippings, concert programs, printed material, scrapbooks, and writings (including typescripts of articles, novels, and plays as well as musical compositions).

Clippings refer to the articles that mention or feature Philippa. Most of the newspaper clippings from the collection had been pasted inside scrapbooks but some, especially from 1954 (when Philippa toured the southern United States and also played in Alaska), remained loose. When necessary, deteriorated original clippings have been replaced with photocopies. Frequently, the Schuylers kept the entirety of any magazine which featured Philippa. Those magazines have been foldered separately from the loose clippings.

Correspondence includes letters addressed to either Philippa or her mother, who represented Philippa as a manager. It also includes birthday cards, telegrams, and postcards. These have been arranged by date. More of this kind of material can be found pasted within the scrapbooks by Josephine.

Josephine Schuyler material includes the documents following her suicide in 1969. One of these is a photocopy of her suicide note, in which she wrote "I am killing myself rather than go to a New York hospital which today are crowded, dirty, with incompetent nurses, indifferent mercenary doctors [and] attendants from a Georgia chain gang." She also dictated that "the cats must go to the ASPCA with provision they must be put to sleep" and added a post script to George that he "had better marry Carolyn." This folder also includes the cremation documents and a copy of the death certificate. Additionally, there are invitations and programs to the memorial held for Josephine at the Gallery of Modern Art. Besides the material surrounding her death, there is a folder for Josephine's writings and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings she compiled while Philippa was very young. The clippings in this scrapbook all concern health, nutrition, child rearing, or gifted children.

Programs from Philippa’s concert performances have been arranged by date, reflecting her tour schedule and repertoire. The years between 1953 and 1959 were bound by the Schuylers into two volumes.

The bulk of the collection is comprised of scrapbooks assembled by Josephine. Scrapbooks include the dates from 1931 to 1937, 1939 to 1946, 1953 to 1954 and 1957 to 1959. These scrapbooks include photographs, newspaper clippings, and correspondence. Additionally, Josephine wrote profusely around the pasted material, writing notes to Philippa or generally giving context to the memorabilia. Philippa addressed her parents as "Jodie" (or "Jody") and "George," and frequently Josephine wrote in the third person, referring to "Jodie" in the scrapbooks. The scrapbooks were not shown to Philippa until shortly after her thirteenth birthday.

Writings are divided by format. Philippa wrote many articles, beginning in 1945 with an article about girls in Mexico called "Friends Across the Border" for Calling All Girls. Besides articles, Philippa expanded her writing career to include books, the first of which was My Adventures in Black and White, published in 1961 and autobiographical. African affairs obviously interested her; she wrote a play called Congo! besides an investigative book called Who Killed the Congo? and a fiction book, Love, Blood and Death: A novel about Kenya.

The collection also has some of Philippa’s published music and manuscripts as well as a few of her notes about other pieces of music. A full score of Philippa's first full orchestrated work, Manhattan Nocturne, is included. It was written when she was only thirteen and debuted at the New York Philharmonic in April of 1945. A Mozambique composer, A. Gonçalves da Fonseea, dedicated his 1962 Rapsodia Portuguesa para Piano e Orquestra to Philippa and the original full score and parts are included in the collection.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is arranged alphabetically by subject and then by date.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

See also the papers of Ms. Schuyler's father, George S. Schuyler . For related material by Ms. Schuyler in our Rare Books holdings, please refer to the Classic Catalog. Copies of Kathryn M. Talalay's biography, Composition in Black and White: The life of Philippa Schuyler (1995) is available in the circulating collection on the 4th floor of Bird Library and in Rare Books.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library also has a large collection of Philippa Schuyler material.

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Subject Headings


Schuyler, Philippa.


African American authors.
African American journalists.
Pianists -- United States.
Women authors.
Women journalists.
Women pianists.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Programs (documents)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Philippa Schuyler Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 2 Oct 2008
Revision history: 29 Jul 2010 - processed, updated (CB); 26 Oct 2012 - extent revised (MBD)

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Loose clippings
Box 1 About Philppa 1939-1967 (9 folders)
Box 1 About Philippa undated
Box 1 Miscellaneous 1949-1954 - about others
Of particular interest is a clipping that discusses Julius Robinson, the first black pianist to receive full scholarship to the Chatham Square Music School in New York City. The last paragraph of the clipping opines, "we consider it newsworthy and significant that Julius Robinson promises to be the first great Negro instrumentalist in the concert field… [I]n our long history of achievements in the realm of music, we have not had a great pianist…" The article was from March of 1954.
Magazines - articles about Philippa
Box 1 1941-1946
Bound volume; contains Feb 1941 Coronet, Oct 1942 Negro Digest, Dec 1943 Coronet, Sep 1944 Negro Digest, Sep/Oct 1944 Southern Literacy and Radio Messenger, Jun 1945 Negro Digest, Aug 1945 Magazine Digest, Mar 1946 American Mercury.
Box 2 1938-1944
Contains Apr 1938 The Crisis; Nov 7, 1939 Look; Jul 1, 1940 Time; Aug 31, 1940 New Yorker; Oct 1943 Negro Digest; Oct 1943 Calling All Girls (2); Aug 14, 1944 Newsweek; Oct 1944 Responsibility.
Box 2 1945-1946
Contains May 1945 Tricolor; May 1945 The Crisis; Jun 1945 Sepia Record; (3) Mar 25, 1946 Time; Mar 1946 Ebony; Aug 3, 1946 New Yorker
Box 2 1947-1954
Contains Dec 1947 Circuit’s Smart Woman; Nov 1949 Color; Dec 1952 Color; May 28, 1953 Jet; Oct 1954 Musical Courier; Dec 1954 The Crisis .
Box 2 1955-1957
Contains Feb 1, 1955 Musical Courier; Mar 3, 1955 Jet Jan 1, 1956 Musical Courier; Dec 15, 1957 Musical Courier (3) .
Box 2 1958-1964
Contains Mar 5, 1959 Jet; 1962-1963 Philharmonic Hall.
Box 2 1930-1964 (5 folders)
Box 2 Undated
Josephine Schuyler material
Box 3 Death and memorial papers May 2, 1969 - June 1, 1969
Photocopy of her May 2, 1969 suicide note; crematory receipt; certificate of cremation; May 7, 1969 Death certificate; letter from Chief Medical Examiner; two copies of a flier to attend her memorial gathering at the Gallery of Modern Art; two copies of the program for that memorial.
Box 3 Scrapbook 1935 - clippings about health, nutrition and children, particularly about child prodigies
Box 3 Writings 1930-1969 - articles and reviews
Contains "The Fall of a Fair Confederate," Winter 1930-31 in The Modern Quarterly, although author is listed as anonymous, note says it is by Josephine; Review of River God in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, under the pen name Heba Jannath; "The Slaughter of the Innocents," about the diets of children, Oct 1934, The Crisis; "The Education of a Musician" in Interracial Review: A Journal for Christian Democracy; Sept. 1953 Book Review of Taking Care of Cats from Courier Magazine; May 22, 1954 "My Daughter Philippa," in Sepia, May 1959; Jan 15, 1968 Congressional Record in which Mr. Ashbrook inserted Josephine’s poem, "Philippa’s World"; (2) Philippa Schuyler: Keyboard Ambassador (order form for the book of verses); (2) Philippa: The Beautiful American, May 1969 (collection of verses about Philippa, sold for $2.50).
Box 3 1936-1949
Box 3 1953-1956 (1 volume, bound)
Box 4 1957-1959 (1 volume, bound)
Box 4 1950-1967 (3 folders)
Box 5 1931-1933
Oversize 7 1933-1934
Oversize 7 1934-1935
Oversize 1 1935-1936
Oversize 1 1936, Feb - Dec
Oversize 8 1936-1937
Oversize 2 1939-1940
Oversize 3 1941-1942
Oversize 9 1942-1943
Box 5 1943-1946
Oversize 9 1953-1954
Oversize 9 1957-1958
Box 6 1958-1959
Oversize 1 Loose pages 1937-1945 - 6 pages of clippings from an unidentified scrapbook
Box 6 Articles 1945-1962
1945 "Friends across the border" in Calling All Girls (3 copies); 1958 "Why I’m still single" in Ebony; 1960 "My adventures in black and white" in Sepia; 1960 "The music of modern Africa" in Music Journal; 1961 "The trap falls on Tshombe" from National Review; 1962 "My black and white world" from Sepia (2 copies); 1962 "Who killed the Congo?" from Human Events.
Box 6 Katanga Cuts circa 1962
Box 6 Love, Blood and Death: A novel about Kenya 1962
Box 6 Miscellaneous 1960-1967
1960 press release about the delay of Adventures in Black and White; 1961 book jacket for Adventures in Black and White; 1961 book review of Adventures in Black and White in The Crisis; 1962 book review of Who Killed the Congo? in National Review; 1967 three copies of an advertisement of Good Men Die.
Oversize 4 Manhattan Nocturne 1945 - full score, parts, loose parts, and envelope with notes written on it
Oversize 5 Nile Fantasia 1946 - full score, another full score, and piano parts for movements 2, 3, and 4
Oversize 5 Rumpelstiltsken circa 1947 - full score, another full score, and loose parts in an envelope
Oversize 6 Rumpelstiltsken photostat sheets circa 1947
Box 6 Published 1938-1955
Contains Three Little Pieces by Philippa Schuyler, 1938 (The Wolf, Autumn Rain, The Jolly Pig); Eight Little Pieces by Philippa Schuyler, 3rd edition circa 1940 (The Wolf, Autumn Rain, The Jolly Pig, At the Circus, Farewell, Song of the Machine, Morning Miniature, Postscript); Rumpelstiltsken para Piano, 1955 (3 copies).
Box 6 Congo! 1964 - includes revisions and envelope with notes
Box 6 Miscellaneous
Single piece of paper of a larger, unidentified typescript work that includes two poems by young Philippa; undated explanation of Nile Fantasia.
Oversize 1 Miscellaneous 1941
Young People’s Concerts by Philippa Schuyler: Handwritten leaves within a scrapbook case with corresponding drawings and music by Philippa. Defines musical terms (like a Symphonic Poem) and describes the lives and works of composers including Purcell and Liszt. Includes a Reference list at the back and a pamphlet that notes that Philippa Schuyler, age 10, won first place for the Concerts for Young People competition.
Oversize 4 By others 1940-1962
Envelope, notes and music on Sonata in E, 1-3 movements of the Waldstein Sonata, and Beethoven’s Sonata in F; Original parts and full score to Rapsodia Portuguesa para Piano e Orquestra, "dedicada à inpigue Pianista Philippa Duke Schuyler, por A. Gonçalves da Fonseea, Beira-Moçambique, Outubro de 1962"
Box 6 Family tree Nov 16, 1945
See also Scrapbook 1943-1946.
Photocopies of a letter sent to Philippa from M.L. Williams of La Fayette, New York. The original is in an envelope glued within the scrapbook that spans August 2nd, 1943 to August 2nd, 1946. It says that George Schuyler’s known family tree starts with a Mohawk Indian and a Madagaskan, "possibly a run away from a slave ship… took name of Jameson from Indians." That couple had a daughter, Letitia Jameson, who gave birth to daughter Helen with Carl Leidendraught of Germany. Helen Leidendraught married a Spaniard who changed his last name to Fisher and they gave birth to Eliza Jane Fisher. Eliza married George Frances Schuyler and they were the parents of George Samuel Schuyler, Philippa’s father.
Box 6 Gieseking, Walter 1949
Contains a program flier for a performance of world-renowned pianist Walter Gieseking at Carnegie Hall on January 24th, 1949 (a performance which was cancelled due to protests and accusations that he was a Nazi collaborator) and a print of "A few excerpts from nationwide editorial comment on The Gieseking Affair."
Box 6 Van Vechten, Carl 1950
Carl Van Vechten was Philippa's godfather. Folder contains an invitation to an exhibit of Carl Van Vechten’s documentary photographs which featured a 1946 photograph of Philippa Duke Schuyler.
Box 6 Miscellaneous 1939-1970
1939 ticket to a Philippa Duke Schuyler piano recital; 1942 results from Philippa’s Stanford Achievement Test; 1946 program for "A Pageant: Negroes of Today Making History of Tomorrow;" 1954 pamphlet for the Miss Harlem Content, which was dedicated to Philippa; 1954 proofs of the advertisement placed in The New York Times; 1954 unlabeled typewritten copy of an article and review of Philippa’s concert performance in Anchorage, Alaska; 1956 rough proof of the advertisement for recital bookings placed by the Schuylers in Musical America; [circa 1963] card with Pope Giovanni XXIII’s photograph inside; 1966 cocktail napkin for a event honoring six people, one of which was Philippa; 1968 note from the Manchester Union Leader that the Congressional Record go to the Philippa Duke Schuyler Collection; [circa 1968] reprint of a memorial article about Philippa from her employer, the Manchester Union Leader; [circa 1969] a Christmas card from George S. Schuyler with a printed note about Philippa and the Philippa Schuyler Memorial Foundation on the inside; 1970 program for a Armenta Adams piano concert held in honor of Philippa Duke Schuyler; undated reprint of a review of one of young Philippa’s piano recitals; unidentified label in Josephine Schuyler’s handwriting.

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