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Katherine D. Bourne Papers, circa 1850-2015

Identifier: MSS 045

Scope and Contents

The collection contains materials created and collected by Katherine "Kay" Bourne throughout her career as a writer, journalist, and educator. The subjects in the collection reflect her focus on the Black arts community in the greater Boston area as well as the wider United States in her writing, research, and educational endeavors. This includes such entertainment topics as theatre, television, film, poetry, writing, journalism, theater, dance, art, photography, and sports. There are also materials that focus on history and culture topics, such as politics, law, cultural organizations, and fashion. The collection also includes a small set of personal documents focusing on Bourne's family and friendships as well as her research into the African American Masters Artists in Residency Program (AAMARP).

The collection holds many different types of materials dating between approximately 1850 and 2015, including articles, research files, programs, books, photographs, correspondence, playbills, reviews, promotional materials, ephemera, movies, documentaries, and televion programs. There is information regarding many different important groups, individuals, events, and organizations that have made a large impact on the Black arts community. Examples include playwright August Wilson; singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist King Sunny Adé; the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts; attorney and polititican Thomas I. Atkins; film director Robert Patton-Spruill; photographer and multimedia artist Lorna Simpson; the Cooperative Artists Institute; the Black Panther Party; the Dorchester Youth Collaborative; the Marcus Shelby Orchestra; novelist Toni Morrison; and the Nielsen Gallery.


  • circa 1850 - 2015


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Access

Series 1, 2, and 5 have personal information that has been restricted according to College and ECASC policy.

Conditions Governing Use

At least part of this collection is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this collection in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holders. You may need to obtain other permissions for your intended use, such as those related to privacy, publicity, and moral rights. For questions about this statement please contact the Emerson College Archives and Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

Katherine Day Bourne was born on September 11, 1938 in Lynn, Massachusetts to Schuyler Vandervort and Elsie Marie Day. Known as Kay, after graduating from Marblehead High School she attended Keene State College, obtaining a bachelor’s of science in Education in 1960. Bourne was a teacher at Wachusett Regional High School in Holden, Massachusetts from 1960 to 1961.

From approximately 1966 to 2006 she was the arts editor at the Bay State Banner in Boston, Massachusetts, where she focused her efforts on highlighting the Black arts community. She spent many weekends and nights attending performances as well as interviewing well-known actors, musicians, poets, playwrights, arts activists, and other individuals in the greater Boston area. She also wrote articles about school desegregation, police and court activities, as well as corrections facilities. Some of Bourne’s other journalistic endeavors included writing reviews and articles for EDGE/Media Network and the Christian Science Monitor. Beginning in 2006, she wrote about the modern arts for the Color of Film Collaborative in The Kay Bourne Arts Report, which was distributed through email.

In the early 1970s she participated in the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, providing expertise on women offenders as well as women in law enforcement. Bourne also served as the Director of Education at the Suffolk County House of Correction from 1979 to 1984 where she taught GED courses, and received a Master of Education from Harvard University in 1984. She worked for many years at the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance as an education coordinator, providing educational and training opportunities to single parents and unhoused individuals.

Bourne was a member of the Boston branch of the NAACP and participated in its board during the 1970s. She was also a board member of the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) as well as provided grants and funding for both IRNE events and the Roxbury Film Festival. She worked with the founder of The Color of Film Collaborative, Lisa Simmons, to establish an oral history program of Lower Roxbury. Throughout her career she gave talks at various locations about the Black arts community in and around Boston. In 2014, she collaborated with photographer Craig Bailey to create a photograph exhibit detailing the participation of Black artists in Boston theater.

Bourne was a National Endowment of the Humanities journalism fellow in 1978, and the recipient of the Melnea A. Cass award through the Greater Boston Young Men's Christian Association in 1984. Other accolades include a Puddingstone Award from Discover Roxbury and a citation from the Elliot Norton Boston Theater Critics Organization.

Bourne was married to William Nettleton Bourne and had two children. She passed away on January 31, 2021.

Biographical / Historical

The Bay State Banner is an independent, weekly newspaper that was established in 1965 by Melvin B. Miller and his brother, Jack Miller. The first issue of the Bay State Banner was published on September 25, 1965 and focused on issues within the public schools. The newspaper was geared towards the readership interests of the African-American community in Boston, Massachusetts, and throughout the years the focus of the newspaper has been to support local Black community endeavors, especially in Roxbury and the surrounding areas. Although the newspaper went on hiatus in 1966 and 2009 due to a lack of revenue, support from the local community ensured that it was able to begin publishing once more. In 2018 Boston University's Mugar Memorial Library created an exhibit honoring the Banner, entitled Boston Revisted: 50 Years of the Bay State Banner. On March 1, 2023, 88-year-old Melvin B. Miller, who was still acting as the chief editor and publisher, announced that he had sold the Banner to videojournalist Ron Mitchell and filmmaker André Stark. As of April, 2023 Mitchell is the chief publisher and editor with Stark working as the chief operating officer.


150 Approximately linear feet

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Researchers will need a VCR, DVD player, cassette player, and/or CD player to view the audiovisual materials in the collection.


The photographs in this collection contain press release photos and head shots pertaining to the artists that Bourne researched. Photographs taken by Kay Bourne were stamped to give the Emerson Archives and Special Collections permissions to use them.

Katherine D. Bourne Papers, circa 1850-2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Emerson College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Walker Building, Room 223
120 Boylston Street
Boston Massachusetts 02116 United States
(617) 824-8301