Collection Number: 20142

Collection Title: Robert L. Russell Interview with John Mason Brewer, 1967-1967

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.


Archival processing of the Robert L. Russell Interview with John Mason Brewer was made possible through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Size 4 items
Abstract Audio recordings of a biographical interview with John Mason Brewer (1896-1975), a Black folklorist known for his work on African American tales and folklore, who was born in Texas. Recorded by Robert L. Russell in March 1967 at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C. The collection also contains supporting documentation, including field collection cover sheets prepared by former library staff. Supporting documentation indicates that the interview was conducted for an article that Russell wrote on Brewer.
Creator Russell, Robert L.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
Access to audio materials may require production of listening copies.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Robert L. Russell Interview with John Mason Brewer #20142, Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Acquisitions information unknown (Acc. 20210108.1).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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Little is known about Robert L. Russell, who was presumably a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student when he recorded his interview with John Mason Brewer.

John Mason Brewer, Black folklorist, son of J. H. and Minnie T. Brewer, was born in Goliad, Tex., on 24 March 1896. His sister, Stella Brewer Brooks, an authority on Joel Chandler Harris and the Uncle Remus tales, shared his interest in folklore. His mother Minnie was an influence to her children's educational pursuits, having taught in the public schools of Texas for fifty years. Brewer attended the Black public schools in Austin and in 1917 received a B.A. from Wiley College in Marshall. He joined the army in 1918, became a corporal, and spent a year in France as an interpreter (he spoke French, Spanish, and Italian). He then returned to a career as a teacher and principal in Fort Worth. He eventually moved from secondary schools to colleges. He was working for an oil company in Denver, Colo., when he began writing stories and poems, first for the company trade journal and later for a monthly journal called The American Negro. In 1926 he was a professor at Samuel Huston (now Huston-Tillotson) College in Austin, where he met University of Texas professor J. Frank Dobie, who influenced him to turn from publishing his own poetry to collecting and publishing Black folklore. In 1950 Brewer received an M.A. from Indiana University, and in 1951 an honorary doctorate from Paul Quinn College in Waco. John Mason Brewer was the first Black member of the Texas Folklore Society and published in six of its annual volumes. He became the first Black member of the Texas Institute of Letters in 1954, after being chosen one of twenty-five best Texas authors by Theta Sigma Phi, for The Word on the Brazos: Negro Preacher Tales from the Brazos Bottoms of Texas, and also was the first Black member of the American Folklore Society to serve as vice president for the society. He received grants for research from the American Philosophical Society, the Piedmont University Center for the Study of Negro Folklore, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Mexico, and the National University of Mexico. Brewer's publications include The Word on the Brazos, Aunt Dicy Tales (1956), Dog Ghosts and Other Negro Folk Tales (1958), Worser Days and Better Times (1965), and an anthology, American Negro Folklore (1968), for which he won the Chicago Book Fair Award in 1968 and the Twenty-first Annual Writers Roundup award for one of the outstanding books written by a Texas author in 1969. Notable among several early volumes of poetry and history are Negrito (1933) and Negro Legislators of Texas (1936); both were reprinted in the 1970s. After ten years of teaching at Livingstone College in North Carolina, Brewer returned to Texas and finished his career at East Texas State University in Commerce (currently Texas A&M University-Commerce), where he was distinguished visiting professor from 1969 until his death. He died on 24 January 1975, and was buried in Austin.

Sources: Byrd, James W. "BREWER, JOHN MASON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrbb), accessed 8 January 2021.

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Open reel audio recordings of a biographical interview with John Mason Brewer (1896-1975), a Black folklorist known for his work on African American tales and folklore, who was born in Texas. Recorded by Robert L. Russell in March 1967 at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C. The collection also contains supporting documentation, including field collection cover sheets prepared by former library staff. Supporting documentation indicates that the interview was conducted for an article that Russell wrote on Brewer.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: Anne Wells and Meredith Kite, January 2021

Encoded by: Anne Wells, January 2021

Since August 2017, we have added ethnic and racial identities for individuals and families represented in collections. To determine identity, we rely on self-identification; other information supplied to the repository by collection creators or sources; public records, press accounts, and secondary sources; and contextual information in the collection materials. Omissions of ethnic and racial identities in finding aids created or updated after August 2017 are an indication of insufficient information to make an educated guess or an individual's preference for identity information to be excluded from description. When we have misidentified, please let us know at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu.

Archival processing of the Robert L. Russell Interview with John Mason Brewer was made possible through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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