Skip to main content
Identifier: IJS-0101

Abbey Lincoln music, papers, and audiovisual recordings



  • 1949-2008

Scope and Content Note

The Abbey Lincoln music, papers, and audiovisual recordings contain a range of materials collected and created by Ms. Lincoln herself over the course of her life. There are examples of scores, lead sheets, and individual musician's parts for many of the songs that appear in all of her recorded output. There are several notebooks and loose pages of typed and handwritten notes on a range of subjects, as well as lyrics, poetry, and journal entries. There are numerous photographs going back to the time of her high school graduation and documentation going up to the last years of her life. Likewise, there are business and personal records, and decades' worth of correspondence received from friends, family and professional associates. All of these evidence her personal and professional endeavors as well as her continuous evolution as an artist. This collection also includes several boxes of unprocessed materials. Please contact the Institute of Jazz Studies for details.


50 Linear Feet (85 boxes)

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. Specific written permission must be granted by the Estate of Abbey Lincoln for publication of any original writings by Ms. Lincoln, performances of her music, or release of any of the private sound recordings, videos, or photographs in the collection. Please contact the Institute for further information.


Abbey Lincoln music, papers, and audiovisual recordings contains a range of materials collected and created by Ms. Lincoln herself over the course of her life including scores, photographs, collected writings, business and personal files. All of these evidence her personal and professional endeavors as well as her continuous evolution as an artist.

Biographical Sketch of Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln was born Anne Marie Wooldridge on August 6, 1930 in Chicago. The tenth of twelve children, she grew up on a farm outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her professional career began immediately after high school. Traveling west to Los Angeles, she found work right away on the supper club circuit where she began her transformation into glamour girl and sexy chanteuse, which culminated in her role at Moulin Rouge. There, she was given the name Gaby Lee. Soon after, lyricist Bob Russell, who became her manager for a time, suggested the name Abbey Lincoln. In 1956 she released her first LP, Affair ... a Story of a Girl in Love, and made her first film, The Girl Can't Help It, appearing in a dress once worn by Marilyn Monroe. Up until that time, she accepted that women singers were packaged that way and she enjoyed being thought of as beautiful and desirable. However, Abbey Lincoln began another transformation in tandem with the growing civil rights movement.

Her voice remained her instrument, but the image developed for her no longer fit her calling. The content of her recordings began to change, and on the cover of her third album, It's Magic (Riverside, 1958), the seductive pose was dropped and her natural hair was shown. Recording in New York with Kenny Dorham, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Max Roach, she began to envision herself and the music in a new light, delving deeper into her craft while becoming more and more aligned with the civil rights movement. This trajectory culminated with We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, released on Candid Records in 1960. "Driva Man" and the "Protest" movement of "Triptych," were dramatic highpoints of the record, led by the material and Abbey Lincoln's impassioned and unconventional performance. In 1962, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach began a marriage that lasted 8 years.

Meanwhile, Abbey Lincoln's acting career thrived. In 1964 she co-starred with Ivan Dixon in the film Nothing But A Man, and in 1968 with Sidney Poitier in For Love Of Ivy. In the sixties, while appearing under others' leadership, she released just one album of her own, Straight Ahead (Candid, 1961), which featured more of her original lyrics. In 1973, she recorded two albums in Japan, Live In Misty (Elec Records), and People In Me (Polygram), which showcased more of her original music in addition to her lyrics. Throughout the sixties and seventies she was a dedicated activist and performed regularly, often combining the two pursuits. In 1975, Abbey Lincoln was named again. Traveling to Africa with Miriam Makeba, she was given the name "Aminata" by the President of Guinea, and "Moseka" by the Minister of Information of Zaire. The seventies consisted of a lot personal study and writing which would inform much of the music that she was yet to write and record. She also made numerous stage and television appearances, including episodes of All In The Family and Mission Impossible, and Black Omnibus hosted by James Earl Jones, and worked briefly as an Assistant Professor at California State University at Northridge.

In the eighties, music came back to the fore as Abbey Lincoln returned to New York. She released Golden Lady (Inner City, 1980; or, Painted Lady on Blue Marge, ITM), Talking To The Sun (Enja, 1983), and Abbey Sings Billie, Vol. 1 and 2 (Enja, rec.1987). During this decade much of her personal growth became apparent, she honed her skills as a bandleader and these albums are made up of more of her original material. In 1990, at the age of 60, she embarked on her most fruitful period of musical output, releasing 10 albums for Verve between 1990 and 2007, starting with The World Is Falling Down (1990) and ending with her final album, the aptly titled, Abbey Sings Abbey. In 2002, Jazz At Lincoln Center celebrated Abbey Lincoln's music and career in a three-concert retrospective and in 2003 she was honored as a Jazz Master Fellow by the National Endowment of the Arts. Finally, her personal style was fully established and a lifetime of personal and artistic inquiry was realized. After several years of declining health, Abbey Lincoln died on August 14, 2010 at the age of 80.

Arrangement Note

The Abbey Lincoln music, papers, and audiovisual recordings are arranged into nine series:

Series 1. Printed Music

Series 2. Writings

Series 3. Photographs

Series 4. Correspondence

Series 5. Business Files

Series 6. Personal Files

Series 7. Awards

Series 8. Oversized

Series 9. Recordings


Abbey Lincoln music, papers, and audiovisual recordings was previously titled "The Abbey Lincoln Collection (MC0101)."

Abbey Lincoln music, papers, and audiovisual recordings IJS-0101
Anders Griffen
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
The contents of this finding aid were developed under a grant from Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the CLIR.

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

185 University Avenue
John Cotton Dana Library
4th Floor
Newark New Jersey 07102 United States