Thomas W. Talley

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Thomas W. Talley
Thomas W. Talley.jpg
Born(1870-10-09)October 9, 1870
DiedJuly 14, 1952(1952-07-14) (aged 81)
NationalityUnited States
Alma mater Fisk University
Scientific career
Institutions Fisk University

Thomas Washington Talley (October 9, 1870 – July 14, 1952) was a chemistry professor at Fisk University and a collector of African American folk songs.

Fisk University university in Nashville

Fisk University is a private historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee. The university was founded in 1866 and its 40-acre (160,000 m2) campus is a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Early life and education

Thomas W. Talley was born on October 9, 1870, in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He was one of eight children born to former slaves, Charles Washington and Lucinda Talley. [1]

Shelbyville, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Shelbyville is a city in Bedford County, Tennessee, United States. It had a population of 20,335 residents at the 2010 census. Shelbyville, the county seat of Bedford County, was laid out in 1810 and incorporated in 1819. The town is a hub of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and has been nicknamed "The Walking Horse Capital of the World".

Talley attended public school for six years, followed by high school and college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received an A.B. in 1890 and a master's degree in 1893. Starting in 1888 he participated in the Fisk music program, singing with the New Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Mozart Society, as well as the Fisk Union Church. He also conducted the Fisk choir for a number of seasons. [2]

Nashville, Tennessee State capital and consolidated city-county in Tennessee, United States

Nashville is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The city is the county seat of Davidson County and is located on the Cumberland River. The city's population ranks 24th in the U.S. According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total consolidated city-county population stood at 691,243. The "balance" population, which excludes semi-independent municipalities within Davidson County, was 667,560 in 2017.

Fisk Jubilee Singers

The Fisk Jubilee Singers are an African-American a cappella ensemble, consisting of students at Fisk University. The first group was organized in 1871 to tour and raise funds for college. Their early repertoire consisted mostly of traditional spirituals, but included some songs by Stephen Foster. The original group toured along the Underground Railroad path in the United States, as well as performing in England and Europe. Later 19th-century groups also toured in Europe.

Talley received a Doctor of Science degree from Walden University in 1899. After completing his doctorate, Talley went on to participate in post graduate programs at Harvard University in 1914 and 1916. He completed his dissertation at the University of Chicago years later in 1931, at the age of 61. [1]

Walden University was an historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee. It was founded in 1865 by missionaries from the Northern United States on behalf of the Methodist Church to serve freedmen. Known as Central Tennessee College from 1865 to 1900, Walden University provided education and professional training to African Americans until 1925.

Harvard University private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 post graduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.



Talley held teaching positions at several black colleges: Alcorn A&M College in Lorman, Mississippi, in 1891; at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1893; and Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1900. [2]

Alcorn State University comprehensive land-grant institution located northwest of Lorman, Mississippi in rural Claiborne County

Alcorn State University is a public, historically black, comprehensive, land-grant institution located northwest of Lorman, Mississippi in rural Claiborne County. It was founded in 1871 by the Reconstruction-era legislature to provide higher education for freedmen. It is the first black land grant college established in the United States. Its main campus is approximately 80 miles southwest of Jackson, Mississippi.

Lorman, Mississippi Unincorporated community in Mississippi, United States

Lorman is an unincorporated community located in Jefferson County, Mississippi, United States. Lorman is approximately 8 miles (13 km) north of Fayette, near Highway 61 on Mississippi Highway 552.

Florida A&M University public, historically black university in Tallahassee, Florida (U.S.)

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is a public, historically black university (HBCU) in Tallahassee, Florida. Founded in 1887, it is located on the highest geographic hill in Tallahassee. It is the 5th largest historically black university in the United States by enrollment and the only public historically black university in Florida. It is a member institution of the State University System of Florida, as well as one of the state's land grant universities, and is accredited to award baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

From 1903 to 1942, Talley taught chemistry and biology at Fisk University. [1] He also chaired the chemistry department at Fisk for 25 years. [2] Talley-Brady Hall on Fisk's campus is named for Thomas Talley and St. Elmo Brady, another Fisk alumnus and chemist who was a student of Talley's. [3]

St. Elmo Brady American chemist

Saint Elmo Brady was the first African American to obtain a Ph.D. degree in chemistry in the United States. He received his doctorate at the University of Illinois in 1916.

Negro Folk Rhymes (Wise and Otherwise)

Talley began collecting rural black folk songs later in his life. Talley's first collection, published in 1922, Negro Folk Rhymes (Wise and Otherwise) contained 349 secular folksongs and spirituals. Already being well-known as the first such collection assembled by an African-American scholar, [2] the book was seen at the time as a "masterpiece of the field". [4] It was not only the first compilation of African-American secular folk songs, but also of folk songs of any kind from Tennessee. [2] An edited edition of Negro Folk Rhymes\" was re-released in 1991. Additional published works about music by Talley include The Origin of Negro Traditions and A Systematic Chronology of Creation. [1]

The publication of Negro Folk Rhymes marked a turning point in the study of African-American verse. Before its publication, little note had been taken of black secular traditions. Talley's book, along with a later collection by Howard Odum and Guy Johnson, called attention to these works. [5]

Personal life

Talley married Ellen Eunice Roberts on August 28, 1899. The couple had two daughters. [2]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Thomas W. Talley Collection Papers, 1891–1951" (PDF). Fisk University. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Thomas Washington Talley (1870–1952)". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. January 5, 2010. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  3. "Historic Markers Across Tennessee". Latitude 34 North. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  4. Chicago Samuel A. Floyd Jr. (27 June 1995). The Power of Black Music : Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 49–. ISBN   978-0-19-802437-8.
  5. Christopher Bigsby (12 October 2006). The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Culture. Cambridge University Press. pp. 360–. ISBN   978-1-107-49498-5.