Alton Augustus Adams Sr. Papers

Institution: Columbia College Chicago - Center for Black Music Research
618 South Michigan
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Phone: (312) 369-7586
Date: 1915-1985
Extent: 8.3 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
Alton Augustus Adams Sr. was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands in 1889 and died there in 1987. He studied music by correspondence, earning a Bachelor of Music degree, and founded the St. Thomas Juvenile Band in 1910. When the United States assumed territorial administration of the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917, the band was inducted into the U.S. Navy as a goodwill gesture. Adams made a name for himself as the first black bandmaster in the U.S. Navy and as a writer on band-related topics. Adams continued to conduct bands for the U.S. Navy through World War II. In 1942 in Guantánamo, Cuba, he led a Navy band that was the first racially integrated band in the U.S. armed forces. Adams was also a composer; his published compositions include three marches: "The Governor's Own," "The Spirit of the U.S. Navy," and "The Virgin Islands March," which became the "national anthem" of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Scope and Content Note:
The papers contain Adams’s autobiographical and biographical materials, correspondence, speeches and writings, materials relating to the Hotel Association of the Virgin Islands, and materials relating to his journalistic activities and civic activities. Also included are manuscripts of his music compositions, band parts, and music by other composers.

Related Material: None