Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Digitizing Historic African American Education Collections: Inventory

AARL and DLG serve diverse communities of library patrons including scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, educators, genealogists, and general users. The selected collections for this project represent varied and diverse voices that inform, expand and/or complicate existing historical narratives about African American education. Four of the eleven collections document the founding and development of black colleges and universities, the emergence of black professionals in education, the establishment of industrial and vocational schools, and the struggles to establish education in rural communities.

The Atlanta University Collection, bulking 1865 to 1955, contains materials that span its beginnings after the Civil War through its later incarnation as Clark Atlanta University (the consolidation of Clark College and Atlanta University), as well as materials about other current (Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, and Morehouse School of Medicine) and former members (Morris Brown College and the Interdenominational Theological Center) comprising the Atlanta University Center, the nation’s largest consortium of African American higher education, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Correspondence from the American Missionary Association and the Freedman’s Bureau highlight the founding and early development of the Atlanta College (later University) from 1865 through the 1870s and the school’s role in supplying teachers and librarians across the South. Also included are correspondence files from several early presidents of the University – Edmund A. Ware (1869-1885), Horace Bumstead (1888-1907), Edward T. Ware (1907-1922), Myron W. Adams (1922-1929), and John Hope (1929-1936) – and communications with the main Northern philanthropic organizations involved in funding African American colleges – the Jeanes Fund, the John F. Slater Fund, and the Phelps Stokes Fund.

The Adam Knight Spence and John Wesley Work Collection, 1851-1936, consists of materials related to music education, Fisk University, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Of particular interest is extensive correspondence (1888-1891) from Henrietta Matson, principal of the Akola Girls’ English School in Berar, India, to Elizabeth and Mary Spence regarding the area’s education and social conditions. Adam Knight Spence served in various capacities at Fisk University, which was founded by the American Missionary Association and the Freedman’s Bureau in 1865. John Wesley Work, Jr. was a leader in the movement to preserve, study, and perform Negro spirituals, and served as director for the internationally recognized Fisk Jubilee Singers. Both Spence’s and Work’s contributions to Fisk University and the community are well-documented in the collection.

The Samuel Howard Archer Collection spans from 1898 to 1941 and documents through correspondence, clippings, and printed material his relationship with scholars and administration at various colleges and vocational schools, among them Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University). After teaching in rural schools in Virginia, he was a professor of mathematics at Morehouse. Later, he served as president.

The Sanford Henry Lee Papers range from 1929 to 1955 and include correspondence, photographs, and printed material related to Lee’s work as an educator in Alabama and Georgia school systems. From 1929 to 1948, Lee served as a farm demonstration extension agent of Georgia. His role in providing education in rural parts of the South is documented in proclamations, awards, and certificates from the Fort Valley State University and Tuskegee University.

Two collections, the Auburn Branch Library Records and the Annie L. McPheeters Papers, illustrate the role of public libraries in the education of African American children and adults and community development. Bulking 1934 to 1954, photographs, programs, brochures, and correspondence document the educational and community activities of the Auburn and West Hunter Branches of the Atlanta Public Library (now AFPLS), whose historic core collections are housed at AARL.

Five collections document the development of elementary and secondary schools for African American youth, the contributions of black educators, and the connections between institutions of early and higher education to local communities. The Helen Adele Johnson Whiting Papers highlight Whiting’s pioneering work in the field of elementary progressive education and the education of African American children, mainly from 1929-1950, through correspondence to and from W. E. B. Du Bois; Ambrose Caliver, senior specialist in the education of Negroes, United States Office of Education; John Hope; and James Weldon Johnson. Printed material includes programs, announcements, and invitations pertaining to the National Conference on the Fundamental Problems in the Education of Negroes and the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection.

The Peyton Austin Allen Papers, bulking 1887-1889, document Allen’s role as an educator in Atlanta schools for African American youth, show his ties to Atlanta University, and highlight the contributions of Richard R. Wright and Booker T. Washington to the field of higher education.

The James Frank Harrison Family Collection documents the Harrison and Partridge families’ work in Atlanta public schools for African Americans and connections to Howard University and Haines Institute (later the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute) in Augusta, Georgia, mainly from 1922 to 1950. Included in this collection is a lengthy series of correspondence between James Harrison, Jr. and black philosopher Alain Locke, who was active in the Adult Education Movements in Harlem and Atlanta.

The William B. Matthews Papers, 1899-1925, document the activities of both Matthews and his wife, Josephine Ophelia Beale, in the field of education. Josephine was an accomplished teacher and William served two decades as principal of the Houston Street School in Atlanta. After 1910, he became principal of Central Colored High School in Louisville, Kentucky. Highlights include tintypes and albumen prints of black educators, schools and students; correspondence from Booker T. Washington; and letters to the top administration of several colleges and universities, among them Atlanta University, Fort Valley High and Industrial School, and Morris Brown College.

The Selena Sloan Butler Family Papers consist of correspondence and printed materials related to her work organizing the first National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers and co-founding the National Congress of Parents and Teachers. Correspondence between family and friends documents the ties between black educators and various community organizations in Atlanta and across the nation. Of particular interest are the documents related to Booker T. Washington’s address to the 1895 Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition.

Digitized collections breathe life into history and serve as testaments, both sweeping and intimate, to African American social and cultural experiences, which are national experiences. Providing these materials online will expand AARL’s institutional reach to those who may never come to Atlanta to gain access to these U.S. treasures.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

1 comment:

  1. christine_johnston@telus,netJune 22, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    My Scottish father made a tour of the USA in 1932 as part of his training to running a higher education college in Malawi, East Central Africa. It is a summary of what was then called "Negro education" with lots of postcards included.

    We wonder if any Archive collection is interested in this?