Magdaline Wilhemine Eckes Shannon was born in 1914 in Breckenridge, Minnesota, to William Francis Eckes and Mary Magdaline (Pahl) Eckes. She completed her bachelor's degree in French at the College of St. Benedict in 1936, and, following some graduate work at other schools, taught at St. Benedict the Moor in Milwaukee at the beginning of World War II. She credited this experience teaching history in a historically black high school with sparking her interest in African-American culture and the wider African diaspora. She married Lyle Shannon in 1943, and gave birth to four children: Mary Shannon Will, Susan Michelle Shannon, Robert William Shannon, and John Thomas Shannon.
Magdaline Shannon began visiting Haiti with her husband in 1968, an experience that would form a major part of both her personal and professional life. Shannon began doctoral study in history at the University of Iowa (where her husband was a professor of sociology) in 1972. During the period of her doctoral work, she also published a translation of Haitian scholar Jean Price-Mars' 1928 volume Ainsi Parla lâ€™Oncle (So Spoke the Uncle). This translation was well received, and was credited by critics not only for its accuracy but for the social importance of introducing Price-Mars, sometimes described as the "father of Negritude," to English-speaking audiences. Shannon earned her Ph.D. in 1989 with a dissertation on Price-Mars, and published Jean Price-Mars, the Haitian Elite and the American Occupation, 1915-1935 in 1996. Over the course of Shannon's travel and research, she developed relationships with members of the Price-Mars family; her papers reflect the Shannons' frequent correspondence with Price-Mars' son Louis Mars. Magdaline Shannon died in 2001 at the age of eighty-six.
The Magdaline Shannon papers date from 1936-2001, and are organized into six series: Personal, Education, So Spoke the Uncle (translation), Haiti Travel and Research, Price-Mars Family, and Audiocassettes. The Personal series dates from the 1930s to 2001, and includes Magdaline Shannon's obituary, photographs and newspaper clippings about students from St Benedict the Moor, a letter to the editor on Iowa fair housing, and material concerning her travels to China, Brazil, and the former Soviet Union.
The Education series dates from 1936 to 1989. This series is primarily concerned with Shannon'sÂ doctoral work at the University of Iowa from 1972 to 1989. Comprised of essays, exam records, administrative correspondence, and a prospectus, this series captures the main landmarks of Shannon's progress through her degree, as well as her deepening work on the African diaspora and Haiti. Also included in this series are Shannon's undergraduate diploma, records of her early graduate work before she came to Iowa, and teaching certification documents.
The So Spoke The Uncle (translation) series dates from 1979 to 1987. This material documents Magdaline Shannon's process of publishing an English translation of Jean Price-Mars' 1928 volume [i]Ainsi Parla l'Oncle[/i]. Included is correspondence with publishers and members of the Price-Mars family as Magdaline and Lyle Shannon secured the rights for the translation, letters of congratulation and thanks upon the book's publication, reviews of the book, and material from a reception at the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C in 1984. Among the letters of congratulation is a short note dated March 1, 1984, from the office of Pope John Paul II.
The Haiti Travel and Research series dates from 1942 to 2002. It includes descriptions of the Shannon's visits to Haiti, official correspondence coordinating their visits, and photographs and memorabilia from visits to Haitian schools. Woven in this series is Magdaline Shannon's contemporaneous research on Haiti, which is reflected in correspondence with other Haiti scholars and Caribbean Studies research organizations, photocopied book reviews of other Haiti scholarship, and collected articles and newspaper clippings on Haiti's political climate.Â Also included is correspondence with novelist Graham Greene regarding Haiti and his character Petit Pierre (The Comedians, 1966), modeled on Haitian columnist and journalist Aubelin Jolicoeur, as well as Lyle and Magdaline Shannon's correspondence with Jolicoeur himself. Finishing this series are photographs and negatives from the Shannons' visits to Haiti, including black and white photographs of what appear to be blood-stained floors when their 1987 visit coincided with the Election Day massacre (an event also referred to in Lyle Shannon's correspondence with Graham Greene).
The Price-Mars Family series dates from 1956-1996 and consists primarily of correspondence with members of Jean Price-Mars' family during the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the correspondence is with Price-Mars' son, ethnopsychiatrist Dr. Louis Mars, and his wife Madeleine Mars, as well as a few letters exchanged with Price-Mars' daughter Marie Madeline Price-Mars. The series is completed by a small group of clipped pictures of Price-Mars himself and photographs of the family and their home.
The Audiocassettes series includes eleven cassette tapes.Â Recorded on these tapes are interviews with Louis Mars and others, as well as a sermon about Salesian Father Laurent Bohnen, a friend of the Shannons. An interview with Greg Flakus, an American journalist, concerns his escape from the 1987 election massacre.