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Jester Hairston Collection

Identifier: SPC-2015-004

Scope and Contents

The collection includes biographical materials on Hairston, music manuscripts written by him, music collected by him, programs for choral events, and administrative materials concerning the planning and execution of the Jester Hairston Centennial Celebration. Biographical materials include both unpublished book manuscripts and published works. Music includes arrangements written in Hairston's own hand, and published materials he collected. Centennial Celebration administrative materials focus on the planning committee, and a VHS of the program.


  • 1917-2007


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

Jester Hairston was an actor, composer, song writer, arranger, choral conductor, Goodwill Ambassador for the United States, and an expert on Spirituals. He is best known as an actor for his roles in the television sitcom "Amen" and radio and television version of "Amos n Andy." As a song writer he is best known for the song "Amen" which he wrote and recorded for the film "Lilies of the Valley", but over his life he composed over 300 other Spirituals, and was the choral director for Hollywood's first integrated choir. He was born in Belews Creek, North Carolina, the grandson of a slave, and was raised in Pittsburgh. He enrolled in college in 1920 at Massachusetts Agriculture to study Landscape Architecture, and though he did not finish a degree at that time, he was later awarded a honorary Doctorate in 1972, and given the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Music and Dance in 1992. After leaving Massachusetts he attended and graduated from Tufts University 1928, and studied music at the Juliard School. In addition to his work with choirs and spirituals in the United States, he performed folk music and spirituals all over the world in the 1960s as a Goodwill Ambassador. He died in Los Angeles at the age of 98 in the year 2000, is buried in Inglewood, California, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


5 boxes

2.69 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Materials created and collected by and about Jester Hairston, and administrative materials related to Hairston's centennial celebration. Materials include manuscripts, music and lyrics, articles, and administrative files.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated by members of the African Diaspora Sacred Music Archive.

Sacred Music Collection

This collection is part the Sacred Music Collection, also known as the Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music, and is associated with the African Diaspora of Sacred Music and Musicians (ADSMM) Program. The Sacred Music Collection is made up of smaller collections that contain various primary source materials, such as sheet music, books, periodicals, photographs, audio visual materials, manuscripts, and more. ADSMM’s mission is to facilitate research, preserve, and make accessible collections documenting the lives of important figures within the sacred music community as well as its influence primarily within the Los Angeles Black community.

Interested in accessing other Sacred Music collections? If you would like to view these materials in-person, please make an appointment through the Gerth Archives and Special Collections website. If you would like to view these materials online, please visit the the Sacred Music Digital Collections Database website. Please keep in mind that some of the materials in our archival collections are still in the process of being digitized and are therefore not yet available to the public.

Inventory of the Jester Hairston Collection
Kendall Hinesley, Beth McDonald; updated by Lindsay Anderson, 2022
2015, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Library South -5039 (Fifth Floor)
1000 E. Victoria St.
Carson CA 90747