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Finding aid of the James L. White Papers

Finding aid prepared by Michael C. Oliveira, © 2006

Summary Information

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
White, James L., 1936-1981
James L. White papers
Collection no.
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1979-1981
Date [inclusive]
1970-1981 (bulk 1979-1981)
1.5 linear feet.
Journals and drafts of poetry, in particular the posthumously-published anthology, The Salt Ecstasies, and prose of the poet James L. White (1936-1981).

Preferred Citation

Box #, folder #, James L. White papers, Coll2006-003, One National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

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James L. White was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 26, 1936. From the age of 16 he received training in classical ballet. He was later awarded a scholarship to the American Ballet Theater in New York City, and while serving in the U.S. Army in West Germany he danced for the State Ballet in Karlsruhe. White obtained undergraduate degrees from Indiana University and Colorado State University, and an MA in Literary Criticism from the latter.

For three years in the 1960's, White worked as a poet-teacher with the Navajo in the American Southwest, where he created and directed the Navajo Folk Art Theater. In 1971, he relocated to Minnesota to serve as the Director of the Native American Project of the Poets in the Schools Program, and he later taught in the Writers in Schools Program sponsored by COMPAS (Community Programs in the Arts and Sciences). While teaching he collected and edited Time of the Indian (1976), contemporary poetry written by Native American children, and  First Skin Around Me (1976), an anthology of American Indian writings. During the late 1970's, he worked with Allen Ginsberg at the Jack Kerouac School for the Disembodied Poetics, at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

In addition to anthologies of Native American writings, White published three anthologies of his own works during his lifetime: Divorce Proceedings (1972),  Crow's Story of Deer (1974), and  Del Rio Hotel (1975). In 1978, the Bush Foundation awarded him a Literature Fellowship that enabled him to complete his final anthology,  The Salt Ecstasies, published posthumously in 1982. White's works were also published in  The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Ironwood, The Ohio Review, Kansas Quarterly, Sonora Review, and  Prairie Schooner.

White died of heart disease at his home in Minneapolis, in July 1981, at the age of 45.


James White Review, 1, no. 1, 1983, 3.

"James White Review Visits Madison." Out! 1987, 3.

James L. White Papers, Coll2006-003, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

James White Review Association Records, Coll2006-004, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

Willkie, Phil and Kevin Burke. "Jim, His Friends and the Heaven-Cafeteria." James White Review, no. 1, 1983, 3.

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Scope and Content of Collection

James L. White's Papers consist almost entirely of his journals and drafts of poetry and prose. The collection forms a single series, arranged by format: interview, journals, poetry, prose, and notes, each arranged chronologically. The journals form the bulk of the collection, and contain photographs and other documents as pasted inserts. White sanitized his papers prior to his death, and they have been re-arranged several times since his death. During the course of these re-arrangements, all loose documents were removed from the journals; these materials are now filed with the journals, but their precise context has been lost. Other materials include a transcript of an interview with White; drafts of his poetry, in particular of his final work, The Salt Ecstasies; two audiocassettes with comments on  The Salt Ecstasies by Tess Gallagher; a small amount of prose; and notes on the writings of others.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
© 2006
909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles, California, 90007
(213) 821-2771


The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

Publication Rights

Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).

Acquisition Information

Gift, together with the James White Review Association Records, the Tom Young Papers, and the David M. Lindahl Papers, of Philip H. Willkie, March 21, 2004.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Michael C. Oliveira, November 13, 2006.

Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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Related Materials

Related Material

James White Review Association Records, Coll2006-004, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

Tom Young Papers, Coll2006-005, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

David M. Lindahl Papers, Coll2006-006, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Diaries
  • Gay men's writings, American
  • Gays' writing, American
  • Interviews
  • Poetry

Personal Name(s)

  • White, James L., 1936-1981


  • Gays in literature
  • Poets, American--20th century

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Collection Inventory


Box Folder

  October 1978 

1 1


Box Folder

  October 1972-March 1979 

1 2

  March 1974-June 1978 

1 3

  December 1975-March 1980 

1 4

  circa January 1977 

1 5

  May 1977-November 1978 

1 6

  September 1977-November 1977 

1 7

  November 1977-June 1978 

1 8

  June 1978-August 1979 

2 1

  November 1978-February 1980 

2 2

  May 1979-October 1979 

2 3

  September 1979-October 1979 

2 4

  October 1979 

2 5

  June 1980-February 1981 

2 6

  April 1981-July 1981 

2 7

 Spiral notebooks (2) & paper tablet undated 

2 8


Box Folder

 Typescript 1975-1980 

3 1

 The Salt Ecstasies, draft 1979 

3 2

 The Salt Ecstasies, draft & correspondence 1980 

3 3

 The Salt Ecstasies, draft 1980 

3 4

 Paper tablets (2) circa 1978 

4 1

 Paper tablets (4) undated 

3 5


Box Folder

 Typescripts circa 1970 

3 6

 Typescripts undated 

3 7

 Notes on Others' Works 

Box Folder

 Paper tablets (2) undated 

4 2


Box Folder

 Audiocassettes by Tess Gallagher on The Salt Ecstasies 1980 

4 2

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