Natalie Curtis Burlin was an ethnomusicologist, anthropologist, and folklorist. Burlin passion for music and skills as a composer and pianist led her from European classical music ventures to studying the music of Native Americans and African Americans.
Burlin was born on April 26, 1876, in New York City to Edward and Augusta Curtis.
Burlin’s search for original American identity among Native Americans conflicted with government regulations that prohibited Native American cultural practices. Burlin appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt to lift the bans and Roosevelt granted her request and also gave her substantial privileges on Indian reservations. As a result, she studied and recorded the cultural traditions of several Indian tribes. She published Songs of Ancient America (1905)and The Indian’s Book (1907).
After marrying in 1917, Burlin and husband Paul moved to Virginia where she found work at Hampton Institute researching Native and African American culture. She later published Negro Folk Songs in 1919 and Songs and Tales from the Dark Continent in 1920.
On October 23, 1921, Burlin was fatally wounded exiting a streetcar in Paris. During her lifetime, Burlin’s work received acclaim in America and France, however many older male anthropologists criticized her abilities and research.