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Nettie Jones Papers

Identifier: UP002734

Scope and Content

This collection documents the career and personal life of author Nettie Jones.

Series 1: Personal Life and Career, 1971-2017. Series consists of correspondence, journals, newspaper clippings, literary reviews, research, notes, photographs, and biographical material that reflect Nettie Jones' personal life and the development of her career and growth as an author.

Series 2: Published and Unpublished Works, 1974-2017. Series 2 is comprised of manuscripts, drafts, contracts, and published versions of several of her works which document the phases of her writings and the trajectory of her career.


  • 1971 - 2017


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Nettie Pearl Jones, an African American author, was born in Arlington, Georgia in 1941 to working class parents. Her father was in the US Army where he fought in the European Theatre in WWII; and her mother migrated north to Detroit to find work in the automotive industry. For the earliest years of her life, her grandparents in the South raised her. When she was five years old, she and her sister Bernice were taken to Detroit to live with their mother. Jones graduated from Detroit’s Central High School (1958) and from there received a Bachelors degree in secondary education from Wayne State University where she graduated Cum Laud (1962). Upon graduating from Wayne State University, Jones taught secondary English and social studies in the Detroit Public Schools (1963-1972) and the Royal George School (1966-1967) outside of Montreal Quebec. She also holds a Masters in education from Marygrove College (1971). She continued her studies at the New School for Social Research (1971), the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, majoring in Advertising and Communications (ca. 1971-1972) and the University of Chicago Divinity School, focusing on Arts in Ministry (ca. 1990-1992). In the 1950s, Frank Yerby and Richard Wright were the only novelists of color available to her at her library. This inspired Jones to seek out others, only to find that there were very few at that time.

In addition to several works in progress, Nettie Jones' published works include the novels: Fish Tales (1984) and Mischief Makers (1989) as well as various other short stories, articles, reviews, video scripts, and works such as: “Jack in the Box” (1987); “When Crack Comes Home” (1989); “Nettie Unbound” (1989); “Reed to Reed” (1989); “Abubakari's Quest” (1992); and “African American Women Speak Out on Anita Hill” (1995). She is also the author of the autobiographical essay titled, “A Way Back Home” (1994). Jones is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts’ Individual Artist Award (1989), the Society of St. John’s Zora Glenn Award (1997), New York Times Promising New Novelists (1985), Yaddo Foundation Award (1983), a Michigan Council of the Arts Award (1984 and 1989), New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study Student's Choice Award (2001), and the Carnegie Fund for Authors Award (2010 and 2016). Jones has also received support from the Carnegie Author’s Fund Award (2010 and 2016) as well as the Pen America Freedom to Write Award (2017). She professes that her writing was greatly influenced by the techniques of advertising copy taught to her while attending the Fashion Institute of Technology; and she accredits her sparseness of style to Ernest Hemingway.

Along with her distinguished career as writer, Jones has taught creative writing and related subjects and worked in many schools, colleges, and universities across the United States, including Essex County College (1995-1998), Montclair State University (1995-1998), Boriqua College (1996-1997), City University of New York, Medgar Evers College (1996-1998), Wayne County Community College (1988) and New York University (1998-2010). She became a writer in residence at Wayne State University (1984-1986) and in the Caesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks Writer-in-Residence program at Michigan Technological University (1988-1991). She has also had the opportunity to work with several notable people such as: Rosa Parks, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, James Baldwin, Louise Merriweather, Rosa Guy, Geneva Smitherman, Harold Neal, Ager Cowan, Fern Logan, Naomi Long Madgett, Todd Duncan, Arthur L. Johnson, and Glenda Taylor. Formerly married to Frank Stafford and Frank Harris, Jones is the mother of Lynne Cheryl Stafford Harris.


3 Linear Feet (3 SB)


This collection documents the career and personal life of author Nettie Jones.


The collection is arranged in 2 series - Series 1 (Box 1) and Series 2 (Boxes 1-3). Folders in series 1 are arranged alphabetically by subject and folders in series 2 are arranged chronologically.

Series 1: Personal Life and Career, 1971-2017 (Box 1)

Series 2: Published and Unpublished Works, 1974-2017 (Box 1-3)


This collection was donated to the Walter P. Reuther Library by Nettie P. Jones in 2016 and 2017.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Elizabeth Nicholson on September 14, 2017.
Guide to the Nettie Jones Papers
Processed by Elizabeth Nicholson and Louis Jones.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA