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George Fortune Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS Group 205

Scope and Content

Original collection: The George Fortune Collection primarily contains material pertaining to Fortune's research and teaching concerning African linguistics, particularly the Southern Bantu linguistic groups. Materials concerning Shona language and culture are particularly well represented in the collection, including extensive notes and writings concerning Shona dialects, phonetics, stories, and songs. The papers include both Shona and English language materials, with Shona writings often accompanied by English translations.

Records include monographs, journals, unpublished manuscripts, reprints, typewritten and handwritten notes, notebooks, teaching and administrative papers, news clippings, ephemera, and a limited amount of correspondence. Also a part of this collection are tape recordings and large bound notebooks of notes and tape transcripts, which detail African stories and songs (in their original language and English translation). Fortune and his colleagues collected and recorded these materials while carrying out fieldwork and interviews in mid-twentieth century Africa.

Other noteworthy pieces of the collection include unpublished manuscripts by the Zimbabwean poet and scholar J. C. Kumbirai, a handwritten and bound (possibly original) copy of Hugh Tracey's classic text Ngoma, and a photograph and negative of A. C. Jordan. This collection also contains Rhodesian news clippings and ephemera.

2013 accretion: The 2013 accretion of Fortune's manuscripts, a gift continuing and complementing the first, includes autobiographical materials such as personal correspondence relating to his decision to leave the priesthood, letters to his wife before and after their marriage, diaries, and draft memoirs (one addressed to his then-teenaged son, Julian). Academic manuscripts and typescripts throughout the collection are primarily in Shona and English, representing Fortune's academic interests and collaborative writing projects.

Fortune's papers reflect his roles as a student (earning medals both as a poet and champion boxer in 1931), priest, husband and father, teacher and university department chair, collector of oral stories and poetry, and co-author or editor of publications in Shona and on the languages and history of Zimbabwe. A few folders contain memoranda, correspondence, official statements or communiques, and reports collected during his administrative service as a department chair at the (then) University College of Rhodesia, and (later) University of Rhodesia (before it became the University of Zimbabwe in 1980). During this period, the Smith government fomented a crisis by interfering with student admissions, resulting in strikes by faculty and students (1966-1970). Several pamphlets and reports relate to the broader context, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1965) and resulting civil war known as the Second Chimurenga or Zimbabwe War of Liberation (1966-1980).

In addition to many individual letters throughout the collection, there are 20 years of correspondence between Fortune and his student and, later, colleague A. C. (Aaron) Hodza (together with related correspondence with Nekatambe) on recording and collecting language examples (1962-1982). Included is a long correspondence with Hazel Carter, a Tonga, Kongo, and Shona linguist who worked at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, and is Professor Emerita of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin. Also included are some letters with Peter Malanchuk, Africana Bibliographer at the University of Florida, who acquired the original collection.

A variety of written collaborations provide evidence of Fortune's career as co-author, editor, and reviewer. Most numerous of these are papers by and with Hodza, including what was Fortune's last academic writing project, an unfinished commentary on Hodza's Ugo Hwamadzinza Avashona. Other authors represented include Herbert Chimhundu, African languages professor at the University of Zimbabwe and an author of fiction, sociolinguistics, and a Shona grammar and dictionary. Several versions of papers by Simon Taoneyi (or Tawoneyi) relate to a project on "The Way of the Life of the Zezeru in the District of Salisbury." Versions of a paper by Bruno Gasse on the "History of Chimanda Reserve" are also included, as are his commentaries and translations of recordings of Shona songs with Hugh Tracey. There are collections of stories and poetry from S. M. Mutswairo, W. B. Chivaura (possibly former students), and the missionary Reverend Francisque Marconnès, author of Comparative Bantu Phonetics with special reference to the Mashonaland dialects of Karanga and other works.

Fortune's academic predecessor and mentor, linguist Gérard Paul Lestrade (1897-1962), was (from 1925) the first head of the anthropology section of the South African Native Affairs Department. Included are a half-dozen of his lectures on national languages and related topics. Clement Martyn Doke (1893-1980) was among the first linguists in Africa to abandon a Eurocentric approach. Included is Fortune's undated draft bio-bibliography (published as part of the 1970 G. K. Hall Catalog of the Doke Collection), and a 95 page manuscript bibliography of Bemba group dialects (apparently in Doke's handwriting).

A wide variety of notes, lectures, lessons, draft manuscripts, corrected publications with editorial marks, commentaries, offprints, and successive editions of Fortune's own publications are included. Several items relating to cave paintings, including newspaper clippings and an indexed, annotated scrapbook of photographs of rock paintings indicate Fortune's apparent interest in Zimbabwean prehistory. His own secondary school grade reports, exam results, awards, degrees, portraits, and two honorary Doctor of Literature diplomas document a lifelong record of distinction in all of his academic pursuits.

Original collection:

The George Fortune Collection primarily contains material pertaining to Fortune's research and teaching concerning African linguistics, particularly the Southern Bantu linguistic groups. Materials concerning Shona language and culture are particularly well represented in the collection, including extensive notes and writings concerning Shona dialects, phonetics, stories, and songs. The papers include both Shona and English language materials, with Shona writings often accompanied by English translations.

Records include monographs, journals, unpublished manuscripts, reprints, typewritten and handwritten notes, notebooks, teaching and administrative papers, news clippings, ephemera, and a limited amount of correspondence. Also a part of this collection are tape recordings and large bound notebooks of notes and tape transcripts, which detail African stories and songs (in their original language and English translation). Fortune and his colleagues collected and recorded these materials while carrying out fieldwork and interviews in mid-twentieth century Africa.

Other noteworthy pieces of the collection include unpublished manuscripts by the Zimbabwean poet and scholar J. C. Kumbirai, a handwritten and bound (possibly original) copy of Hugh Tracey's classic text Ngoma, and a photograph and negative of A. C. Jordan. This collection also contains Rhodesian news clippings and ephemera.

2013 accretion:

The 2013 accretion of Fortune's manuscripts, a gift continuing and complementing the first, includes autobiographical materials such as personal correspondence relating to his decision to leave the priesthood, letters to his wife before and after their marriage, diaries, and draft memoirs (one addressed to his then-teenaged son, Julian). Academic manuscripts and typescripts throughout the collection are primarily in Shona and English, representing Fortune's academic interests and collaborative writing projects.

Fortune's papers reflect his roles as a student (earning medals both as a poet and champion boxer in 1931), priest, husband and father, teacher and university department chair, collector of oral stories and poetry, and co-author or editor of publications in Shona and on the languages and history of Zimbabwe. A few folders contain memoranda, correspondence, official statements or communiques, and reports collected during his administrative service as a department chair at the (then) University College of Rhodesia, and (later) University of Rhodesia (before it became the University of Zimbabwe in 1980). During this period, the Smith government fomented a crisis by interfering with student admissions, resulting in strikes by faculty and students (1966-1970). Several pamphlets and reports relate to the broader context, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1965) and resulting civil war known as the Second Chimurenga or Zimbabwe War of Liberation (1966-1980).

In addition to many individual letters throughout the collection, there are 20 years of correspondence between Fortune and his student and, later, colleague A. C. (Aaron) Hodza (together with related correspondence with Nekatambe) on recording and collecting language examples (1962-1982). Included is a long correspondence with Hazel Carter, a Tonga, Kongo, and Shona linguist who worked at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, and is Professor Emerita of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin. Also included are some letters with Peter Malanchuk, Africana Bibliographer at the University of Florida, who acquired the original collection.

A variety of written collaborations provide evidence of Fortune's career as co-author, editor, and reviewer. Most numerous of these are papers by and with Hodza, including what was Fortune's last academic writing project, an unfinished commentary on Hodza's Ugo Hwamadzinza Avashona. Other authors represented include Herbert Chimhundu, African languages professor at the University of Zimbabwe and an author of fiction, sociolinguistics, and a Shona grammar and dictionary. Several versions of papers by Simon Taoneyi (or Tawoneyi) relate to a project on "The Way of the Life of the Zezeru in the District of Salisbury." Versions of a paper by Bruno Gasse on the "History of Chimanda Reserve" are also included, as are his commentaries and translations of recordings of Shona songs with Hugh Tracey. There are collections of stories and poetry from S. M. Mutswairo, W. B. Chivaura (possibly former students), and the missionary Reverend Francisque Marconnès, author of Comparative Bantu Phonetics with special reference to the Mashonaland dialects of Karanga and other works.

Fortune's academic predecessor and mentor, linguist Gérard Paul Lestrade (1897-1962), was (from 1925) the first head of the anthropology section of the South African Native Affairs Department. Included are a half-dozen of his lectures on national languages and related topics. Clement Martyn Doke (1893-1980) was among the first linguists in Africa to abandon a Eurocentric approach. Included is Fortune's undated draft bio-bibliography (published as part of the 1970 G. K. Hall Catalog of the Doke Collection), and a 95 page manuscript bibliography of Bemba group dialects (apparently in Doke's handwriting).

A wide variety of notes, lectures, lessons, draft manuscripts, corrected publications with editorial marks, commentaries, offprints, and successive editions of Fortune's own publications are included. Several items relating to cave paintings, including newspaper clippings and an indexed, annotated scrapbook of photographs of rock paintings indicate Fortune's apparent interest in Zimbabwean prehistory. His own secondary school grade reports, exam results, awards, degrees, portraits, and two honorary Doctor of Literature diplomas document a lifelong record of distinction in all of his academic pursuits.

Dates

  • 1869-2006
  • Majority of material found within 1945-1990

Creator

Language of Materials

Includes materials written in English, Shona, and, to a lesser extent, Swahili, Ndebele, Xhosa, Sotho, and Portuguese.

Access

This collection is open for research.

Usage Restrictions

Some of the autobiographical materials in this collection are governed by digitization restrictions. Please speak with the curator regarding use of these materials.

Biographical/Historical Note

George Glynn Fortune was born on July 31, 1915 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). He attended Christian Brothers College, a Catholic boarding school in Kimberley, South Africa; Heythrop College in Oxford, England; was ordained as a Jesuit in 1942; served as a parish priest in Liverpool; and undertook coursework at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from 1943 to 1945. He returned to Southern Africa after World War II, engaging in a year of fieldwork with the Shona people and continuing his lifelong study of Southern Bantu languages. After receiving a Ph.D. in Bantu Languages from the University of Cape Town in 1950, Fortune was appointed lecturer within that Department (1951-1960). He was laicized at his request in 1956. In 1962, he became the first chair of the Department of African Languages, funded by the Ford Foundation at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now the Department of African Languages and Literatures at the University of Zimbabwe). He married his wife Denise Helene Pellatt in 1967, adopting her children Julian and Deborah. Fortune retained his position at the University of Zimbabwe until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1980. Following an urgent heart operation in 1987, he and his family emigrated to Mold, Wales. He died there at age 97 on October 17, 2012. Denise predeceased him on August 18 of that year.

Professor Fortune conducted extensive research and wrote widely on Central and Southern African languages for over fifty years. His writings concerning the Shona language were crucial to the development of a standard Shona orthography, and texts such as Elements of Shona are regarded as canonical. Fortune also played a key role in establishing African linguistics as a field of study at African universities. Later in his career, Professor Fortune became very much involved in supporting the publication of Shona literature, such as praise poetry, modern poetry, and traditional stories. Fortune made an important contribution to the advancement and recognition of vernacular Shona literature, and worked extensively with several writers, such as A. C. Hodza and J. C. Kumbirai, who published with the Southern Rhodesia African Literature Bureau.

Extent

9 Linear feet (16 Document boxes, 2 Oversized boxes, and 1 Oversized folder)

Abstract

George Fortune (1915-2012) conducted extensive research and wrote widely on Central and Southern African languages for over fifty years. His writings concerning the Shona language were crucial to the development of a standard Shona orthography, and he also played a key role in establishing African linguistics as a field of study at African universities. This collection reflects Fortune's roles as a student, priest, husband and father, teacher and university department chair, collector of oral stories and poetry, and co-author or editor of publications in Shona and on the languages and history of Zimbabwe. Materials concerning Shona language and culture are particularly well represented in the collection, including extensive notes and writings concerning Shona dialects, phonetics, stories, and songs.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into seven series: Series I: Writings by various authors, 1869-1982, undated;" "Series II. Writings by George Fortune, 1953-1979, undated;" "Series III. Teaching and administrative papers, 1929-1984, undated;" "Series IV. Research materials, 1929-1986, undated;" "Series V. Biographical and personal materials [2013 accretion], 1927-1990, undated;" "Series VI. Linguistic and other research materials [2013 accretion], 1943-2006, undated;" and "Series VII. Subject files [2013 accretion], 1952-2004, undated."

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

The original collection materials stemmed from a purchase of Fortune's monographs in 1987. The 2013 accretion to this collection was donated to the Smathers Libraries by A. J. Pelatt in January 2013.

Alternative formats

Digital reproductions of selected items from this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

The original 2007 finding aid for this collection can be found here.

Separated Material

Published materials from the George Fortune Collection are listed in the library catalog and can be located by searching for "George Fortune Collection."

Processing Notes

Folder titles and content notes are not definitive lists or comprehensive descriptions of contents, but an indication of the kinds of materials grouped therein. Some included materials do not fit in language and poetry categories, so they are grouped with personal writings, philosophical and religious writings, as well as a few stories or memoirs apparently relating to Fortune's schooling and religious training. Fortune's own academic and editorial writings have not been separated from the work of students and colleagues due to the collaborative nature of that work, much of which is not attributed in these draft versions.

In 2008 the audio cassette tape field recordings of folktales (Box 7) were digitized and the recordings are available in digital format on DVD. A list of the audio files accompanies the DVD and an inventory of the recordings is available online.

Materials from the 2013 accretion to this collection have been kept separate from the original collection (processed in March 2007) to maintain original order. The added series are labeled as such (e.g., "V. Biographical and personal materials [2013 accretion]").

Title
A Guide to the George Fortune Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid created by Dan Reboussin
Date
September 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

Contact:
George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America
352-273-2755