Fonds RC0143 - Jackie Washington fonds

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Jackie Washington fonds

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  • 189?-2009 (Creation)

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Physical description

8.5 m of textual records and other materials
2,500 photographs
150 audio cassettes
8 audio compact discs
7 DVDs
2 video cassettes
2 audio discs

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Biographical history

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Jackie Washington (1919-2009) was the grandson of a Virginia slave. The second of thirteen siblings, Washington began his musical career at age five when he started singing with The Four Washington Brothers. By the early 1930s, Washington and his brother Ormsley became a self-taught musician, learning the guitar and piano. Before serving in World War II, he worked as a porter for Canadian Pacific Railroad, which inspired his lifelong interest in trains. During this time, the Washington family played host to many talented touring musicians including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Lionel Hampton.

After obtaining a medical discharge from the army, Washington worked in Hamilton at the American Can Company, eventually forming a musical duo with Sonny Johnston. The two soon developed a weekly radio show on CKOC and in 1948 Washington became Canada’s first black disc jockey for CHML radio. His career showed continuing promise in the 1960s when the musician took full advantage of the burgeoning coffee house scene in order to establish himself as a folk musician. When folk festivals gained popularity in the 1970s, Washington became a fixture at such events as the Home County Folk Festival in London, Ontario and the Festival of Friends in Hamilton, Ontario.

In spite of health problems (Washington was diagnosed with diabetes in 1970), he continued to work, recording his first album, Blues and Sentimental, in 1976. In the late 1980s, Washington continued to tour as part of a trio “Scarlett, Washington and Whitely,” with Mose Scarlett and Ken Whitely. During his later years, Washington was upheld as an important musician both locally and nationally. He was recognized with an honorary doctoral degree conferred by McMaster University in 2003. The Jackie Washington Rotary Park was named in his honour in 2004.

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Scope and content

The fonds consists of extensive photographs and textual, audio and audio visual materials. It also contains realia including trophies and honours, such a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hamilton Music Awards and even some of Washington’s hats.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds (23-2009) was acquired in May 2009 from various individuals including Ken Whitely, David Kidney, and Cathy Powell. The guitar was acquired in 2011.


This collection is arranged into the following series:
Series 1: Personal Information and Miscellany (Box 1)
Series 2: Artwork, Projects, and Musical Career (Box 1)
Series 3: Legal, Financial, and Medical Documents (Box 2)
Series 4: Correspondence (Box 2)
Series 5: Greeting Cards (Box 3)
Series 6: Flyers and Programs (Box 4)
Series 7: Honours, Trophies, and Plaques (Boxes 4-7)
Series 8: Journals and Notebooks (Boxes 8-11)
Series 9: Song Lists, Lyrics, Sheets (Boxes 11-12)
Series 10: Photographs and Portraits (Boxes 13-18)
Series 11: Sound Recordings and Moving Images (Boxes 19-27)
Series 12: Posters and Promotional images (Box 13)
Series 13: Realia (Boxes 28-29)
Series 14: Newspaper Clippings (Box 30)

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Restrictions on access

Access to Box 2 (Legal, Financial, and Medical Documents; Correspondence) is restricted until 2039.

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No further accruals are expected.

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