Rosetta Reitz's Musical Archive of Care (2023-2024)


Rosetta Reitz was a 20th-century feminist writer, business owner, and record and concert producer. After a career in which she published two books, owned a bookstore and wrote for music and culture publications, Reitz started Rosetta Records in 1979, the first and only record label specializing in women’s jazz and blues music, dedicated to rereleasing previously underappreciated recordings.

Through rigorously written liner notes, song selections, album art and concerts, she searched for the language that would do justice to the music of Black women whose work had been ignored or diminished. In the words of performance studies scholar Daphne A. Brooks, Reitz was a “multi-hyphenate wonder” whose work is a model of meticulous research, a politics of care in the archive, and intellectual humility.

Project Description

This project will use Reitz’s papers housed in Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to inform and construct a new model of creative and scholarly practice for the 21st century. 

During the first phase of work, project members will work together to dig into the Rosetta Reitz archive, while also completing supplemental readings of secondary sources analyzing Reitz’s rigorous process, impact and values of reciprocity and care. During this time, the entire team will meet weekly and develop their own ethic of care by doing, reading and discussing. 

Students will then form several subteams to work on specific tasks aimed at adapting lessons from the archives for contemporary projects. These tasks include working with musicians from the Rosetta Circle (a group of artists dedicated to carrying forward Reitz’s commitment to practices of care) to create a musical and oral storytelling project; researching possibilities for a public-facing Rosetta Records web archive; or extending Reitz’s teaching, writing and advocacy work. There will be biweekly whole-team opportunities to visit the archives and meet contemporary musicians from an under-represented genre or demographic.

Anticipated Outputs

Digital or physical exhibit featuring Reitz’s work; advocacy campaign around a person or issue consistent with Reitz’s approach updated for the 21st century; series of contextualized public musical performances; compilation recording (or playlist) with album art and liner notes; podcast interweaving historical research with contemporary implications

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will include 5 graduate students and 9 undergraduate students. Students from any humanities or arts discipline would be strong candidates. Prospective applicants should have taken courses that developed understanding of any of the following topics: race and popular culture; feminisms; historical/archival methods; textual analysis; music creation, production and performance; sound/audio production and editing; and/or visual art/graphic design.

Team leaders welcome graduate students from any humanities or arts discipline and are seeking, in particular, at least one student with advanced studies in race and popular culture and/or feminist studies and race, with experience conducting archival research. Master of Fine Arts students with experience working in visual and graphic design and graduate students at any level with audio/video production experience are encouraged to apply. 

Prospective applicants should be willing to embrace the collaborative, collective nature of the work. Students will gain experience in textual analysis, writing for the public, interviewing, audio recording and editing, music performance and production, event production and management, creation of digital or physical exhibits, and the development of print and digital advocacy campaigns. They will have the opportunity to collaborate with musicians and multimedia producers toward creating new music recordings and podcasts.

Three graduate students will be selected for the roles of project manager, music coordinator and visual art coordinator. The project manager will develop and demonstrate leadership and project management skills, including workflow, multimedia data management, conflict mediation and budget management. The music coordinator will take the lead in managing music and podcast production and will work closely with professional musicians in the Rosetta Circle. The visual art coordinator will manage graphic design project work.

In Fall 2023, this team will meet on Mondays from 2:00-4:00 p.m.


Fall 2023 – Spring 2024

  • Fall 2023: Conduct archival research and literature review; engage with musicians; develop subgroup themes and goals; begin to define specific outputs for each subgroup
  • Spring 2024: Continue research; finalize plans for specific subgroup outputs; implement plans for interviewing, design work, production, etc.


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters

This Team in the News

Meet the Winners of the 2024 Bass Connections Student Research Awards

Rosetta Reitz: The Life Behind the Music


Image: Rosetta Reitz, Duke University Jazz Archive, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Woman seated indoors, with an artwork over her head, black and white photo.

Team Leaders

  • Margaret (Lou) Brown, Franklin Humanities Institute
  • Tift Merritt, Hungry River Collective, Rosetta Circle
  • Laura Micham, Duke Libraries

/graduate Team Members

  • Thea Ballard, Art and Art History-PHD, Art and Art History-AM
  • Anne Koppes, Music-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Lindsay Frankfort
  • Trisha Santanam, English (AB)
  • Joyce Thomas
  • Jiantong Zhang, DKU Interdisciplinary Studies (BA)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Craig Breaden, Duke Libraries
  • Hannah Jacobs, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies