Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Hettie Jones papers, 1895-2009, bulk 1958-2009

Summary Information


The Hettie Jones Papers contains correspondence, writings, and teaching materials related to Hettie Jones' career as a writer, editor, and teacher in the New York City Beat and Downtown literary scene, from the 1960s through the 2000s. Included are manuscripts from Jones' numerous books of poetry and children's and young adult novels, as well as her 1990 autobiography, How I Became Hettie Jones. The collection also features materials from her time as co-editor of Totem Press and Yugen literary journal. A small amount of material pertaining to Jones' former husband, the poet LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, including unpublished early manuscripts and photographs is also here.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1513
Bib ID 7451336 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Jones, Hettie
Title Hettie Jones papers, 1895-2009, bulk 1958-2009
Physical Description 26.5 linear feet (63 boxes: 55 document boxes, 3 note card boxes, 3 record cartons, 1 videotape box, 1 oversize box. Video box (box 60) and audio boxes (boxes 55, 57, and 58) are all found in record storage carton box 63. )
Language(s) English , Spanish; Castilian .

This collection is located primarily off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Some unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. Remaining original copies of audio / moving image media are closed until reformatting in 2020.



This collection is arranged in seven series.


Scope and Content

The Hettie Jones Papers include the manuscripts of many of Jones' books, poetry, and short fiction, including multiple drafts of Jones' autobiography How I Became Hettie Jones, as well as her various poetry collections and children's books. The collection contains a number of items related to LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, including unpublished poems, letters, and photographs. There is also extensive correspondence of Jones with many key poets and writers of the New York literary scene and beyond, as well as photographs depicting Downtown and Bohemian life in postwar New York.

The correspondence represents over fifty years of Jones' life, ranging from letters and notes from recognizable figures in the Beat/Downtown arts and jazz scene, to a large amount of communication with Jones' daughters, Kellie and Lisa, and other family members. There is also correspondence between Jones and her former husband, poet LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka.

The manuscript series contains Jones' published and unpublished poetry and fiction, manuscript drafts of many of her children's/young adult novels, and various drafts of How I Became Hettie Jones. Also included in this series are items pertaining to Jones' work as editor of Yugen literary magazine.

A large segment of the collection consists of material related to Jones' teaching at various New York City colleges, universities, and prisons, including syllabi, lesson plans, and student work. Much of this material is restricted.

This collection also holds material about the Cohen family, including original immigration and naturalization documents of Jones' relatives from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, as well as items from Jones' high school and university education. The personal and family materials series also contains photographs, documents, and unpublished writings of Jones' former husband LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka.

Also within this collection are audio/visual material, recordings, featuring readings by Jones and other poets, and photos of Jones' family and 'bohemian' life in New York's Lower East Side in the Fifties and Sixties.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1940s-2009

    This series contains correspondence covering over fifty years, and various aspects of Jones' personal and professional life. General correspondence with Jones' professional and artistic contacts, arranged alphabetically and including a list of correspondents, is found here along with the correspondence of friends and family. The correspondence of Jones' daughters, Kellie and Lisa Jones, makes up the bulk of the family material, although there is also extensive correspondence from jazz musician Marion Brown. This series also holds fan mail and correspondence with Jones' students.

  • Series II: Writings, 1956-2009

    Contained in this series are research materials, notes, drafts, and extra-textual material for all of Jones' major writings. The material has been grouped into five subseries, reflecting the scope of Jones' career as a writer. The series primarily contains drafts, in various stages, of works in the various genres in which Jones wrote—this includes non-fiction memoir, particularly How I Became Hettie Jones, reviews, fiction, poetry, and children's and young adult literature. Many reviews of Jones' writings, and a number of academic studies of Jones, her work, and her role in the Beat Generation can also be found here. Additionally, there is material pertaining to Jones' many speeches, lectures, literary readings—including drafts and event listings and flyers—and grant and fellowship proposals. Issues of Yugen, the little magazine Jones edited with her former husband LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, have been included and provide an example of Jones' editorial work. When possible, the original order and folder titles have been preserved.

  • Series III: Personal and Family Materials, 1895-2009

    This series contains material relating to Jones' early life and family history. Among the documents are early Cohen family records such as immigration and confirmation documents from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century; and elementary school, high school and university materials, including reports, school certificates, programs and scripts from high school and college plays, and Jones' undergraduate thesis. Finally, documents that pertain to Jones' fight to retain her residence at 27 Cooper Square, New York City, in the 1990s can be found here.

  • Series IV: Printed Materials, 1941-2000s

    This series holds printed materials collected by Jones, but produced, for the most part, by others. A large number of print announcements and advertisements for events across the arts—primarily visual arts, literature, film, and music—dating from the 1970s through the 2000s are here. This series also brings together a collection of little magazines from the 1960s through the 2000s, including a nearly five-year run of the Gloucester, Massachusetts poetry journal Bezoar from the late 1970s and 1980s. Aside from little magazines, there are also magazines and journals relating to music—primarily jazz—mostly from the 1950s, and a number of political and radical magazines from the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, this series contains numerous pieces of visual art, primarily paintings and drawings, including some done by Jones.

  • Series V: Teaching Materials, 1982-2009

    Reflecting several decades as a teacher at colleges, universities, and prisons, this series holds documents relating to writing workshops, led by Jones, at various institutions from the early 1980s to the 2000s. Materials include syllabii and other teaching material, drafts of Jones' collections of prison writing, and correspondence with students.

  • Series VI: Audio, Visual, and Photographic Materials, 1918-2000s

    This series comprises cassettes, VHS tapes, and photographs pertaining to Jones' personal life and literary career. The VHS tapes contain recordings of Jones' appearances on various documentaries and television shows, primarily relating to the Beat/Downtown New York literary scene. The cassette tapes primarily consist of recordings of Jones' radio appearances and interviews, as well as public readings of her works.

    The bulk of this series consists of photographs, which include images of the Cohen family from the early Twentieth Century, and also a large number of Jones during college. The largest set of photographs are those of Jones taken during the Fifties and Sixties in New York City's East Village, and includes photos of her then-husband LeRoi Jones, her children Kellie and Lisa, and a number of other New York City writers and artists. Many of the photographs were originally arranged in scrapbooks, and, when possible, this order has been maintained.

    Video box (box 60) and audio boxes (57 and 58) are all found in record storage carton box 63.

  • Series VII: LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Material, 1940s-2004

    Contained in this series are materials directly pertaining to Jones' husband LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka). Items range from personal items, such as Jones' military records, to a small number of typescript and manuscript drafts of unpublished and published poems by LeRoi Jones from the late 1950s and early 1960s. This series also includes correspondence between LeRoi Jones and Hettie and their children, Kellie and Lisa, as well as a number of flyers and even notices which belonged to LeRoi Jones. This series has been organized alphabetically.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located primarily off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Some unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. Remaining original copies of audio / moving image media are closed until reformatting in 2020.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Hettie Jones Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.University Library.

Selected Related Material-- At Columbia

Beat Poetry and Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Kulchur Foundation Records, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) Collection, Syracuse University

Amiri Baraka Collection of Unpublished Poetry, new York Public Library

Carol Berge Papers, University of Texas—Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Christopher Felver Portraits of Poets, Authors, and Artists, The Bancroft Library, University oCalifornia, Berkeley

Diane Di Prima Papers, Syracuse University

(Everett) LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) Papers, Syracuse University

Imamu Amiri Baraka Manuscripts [ca. 1974-1979], New York Public Library

Literary Correspondence and Manuscript Collection, University of Connecticut Libraries


Additional materials expected

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Aaron Winslow (Columbia University 2014) 06/--/2010.

Finding aid written Aaron Winslow (Columbia University 2014) 07/--/2010.

Revision Description

2011-01-05 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2019-08-29 Added note re AV boxes in rsc. kws

2020-07-08 Added links to first batch of digitizd material. kws

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Brochures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sound recordings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Video recordings (physical artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Baraka, Amiri, 1934-2014 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Beats (Persons) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Beats (Persons) -- Fiction Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bohemianism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Counterculture Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hippies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jones, Hettie Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Little magazines Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poetry -- Publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poetry -- Social aspects Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poetry, Modern -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poetry, Modern -- 20th century -- Periodicals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American -- 20th century -- Biography Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Prisons -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Race relations in literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Hettie Jones (nee Cohen, 1934- ) was a major figure in the New York literary avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Jones returned to New York City after attending Mary Washington College, then the women's college of the University of Virginia. She found work as an editorial and clerical assistant at Partisan Review and lived in the East Village. Alongside her husband LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka)--with whom she had two children, Kellie and Lisa--she edited and produced the Downtown little magazine, Yugen, which published such seminal poets and writers as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Diane DiPrima, and Charles Olson. Later Jones wrote and published her own poetry and fiction, which has recently garnered critical acclaim. In 1999 Jones received the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award for her collection Drive.

Jones is perhaps best known for her memoir, How I Became Hettie Jones, which provides a detailed portrait of the Downtown and Beat literary scene of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as of her marriage to, and divorce from, African American poet LeRoi Jones, and the difficulties of an interracial relationship in the Civil Rights era.

Jones has been a prolific writer, producing a number of poetry collections including Drive, For Four Hetties, All Told, and Doing Seventy. Much of her writing has been for youth, and she has written many children and young adult novels and non-fiction books, such as ig Star Fallin' Mama, Five Women in Black Music (honored by the New York Public Library), and From Midnight to Dawn. With Rita Marley, the widow of reggae singer Bob Marley, Jones authored the memoir No Woman No Cry.

Jones also served as the Chair of the PEN Prison Writing Committee, subsequently editing two poetry collections derived from workshops she taught at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, More In than Out and Aliens at the Border. Having spent much of her professional life teaching creative writing at New York City area colleges and universities, Jones currently teaches in the graduate program in creative writing at The New School, as well as at New York's 92nd Street Y Poetry Center.