Music and Museum

How Joy McLean Bosfield—and Her Archive—Came to the Anacostia Community Museum

Musical and museum communities mingle in the story of how Joy McLean Bosfield—and her papers—came to the Anacostia Community Museum. From 1962 to 1974, McLean Bosfield served as Minister of Music at John Wesley AME Zion Church in Washington, DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood. One of her colleagues, Rev. John R. Kinard, grew up in the congregation and rejoined the staff as assistant pastor after graduating from seminary in 1966. The following year, Kinard became the first director of the newly-founded Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, as it was initially known, continuing to serve the church throughout his tenure.

Scrapbook pages show photo of Joy McLean Bosfield holding flowers after her recital at John Wesley AME Zion Church and accompanying newspaper articles

Joy McLean Bosfield's scrapbook pages about her October 1965 recital at John Wesley AME Zion Church feature a photo in which she holds a bouquet of flowers and accompanying newspaper articles. The Joy McLean Bosfield papers, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

The star-spangled, blue program from the Museum's dedication and opening on September 15, 1967 is among McLean Bosfield's papers. As she prepared to retire to Mexico two decades later, Kinard asked her to donate her papers to the Museum. Curator Portia James penned a handwritten note to Kinard when McLean Bosfield delivered them on August 1, 1985. McLean Bosfield went on to write a long letter to James that supplied connections, context, and even humor about aspects of her remarkable life and archival collection.

Letterhead depicts Joy McLean Bosfield's home in Mexico
McLean Bosfield typed "not hi rises but mountains" on her letterhead, explaining the angular images to curator Portia James.
The Joy McLean Bosfield papers, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

McLean Bosfield and Sweet Honey in the Rock

In 1994, McLean Bosfield returned to DC to celebrate the DC-based musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock’s twentieth anniversary in 1994. McLean Bosfield produced Sweet Honey’s 1977 album, B’lieve I’ll Run On…See What the End’s Gonna Be. The group’s founder, Smithsonian curator Bernice Johnson Reagon, took voice lessons from Fred Wilkinson and McLean Bosfield, who became director of Wilkinson’s vocal studios in 1980. McLean Bosfield also taught Sweet Honey’s Yasmeen Williams, who is among many accomplished students citing McLean Bosfield’s coaching in their professional biographies.

McLean Bosfield contributed an essay, “Extending a Vocal Lineage,” in the companion book to Sweet Honey’s anniversary album, We Who Believe in Freedom: Still on the Journey. The Anacostia Community Museum hosted a concert in January 1995 to launch a related exhibition in the nearby Panorama Room.


Bosfield, McLean. "Extending a Vocal Lineage" in We Who Believe in Freedom: Still on the Journey, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock. New York: Anchor, 1993.

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