Thursday, April 28, 2011

From Tuskegee to Tokyo

Selena Sloan Butler family papers, Archives Division, AARL
During a review of scans of the Selena Sloan Butler family papers, one of the eleven collections being digitized for the NHPRC funded collaborative with the Digital Library of Georgia, I was struck by images from an album of postcards. From 1902 to 1908, Butler kept postcards from friends and colleagues travelling for business as well as leisure. They cover a broad geographic swath, from Tuskegee to Toronto to Tokyo, and shed light on the lives of an elite class of African Americans who navigated the constraints of the Jim Crow South. 

Selena Sloan Butler family papers, Archives Division, AARL
The postcards also represent events, places, and moments related to African American history in the United States. For example, in 1907 Butler received a postcard mailed from the Colored State Fair in Macon, Georgia, which documents segregation and the Georgia State Fair during the early twentieth century. Another from the same year contains an image of (Dr. J. T.) Wilson's Infirmary, a now-vanished hospital for African Americans in Nashville, Tennessee.  On September 05, 1906, Dr. Henry R. Butler, Selena's husband, received a postcard of Richmond, Virginia, from a colleague. At the end of month, a bloody race riot erupted near the Butler family's home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Reseach Associate


  1. It's amazing how overlooked many of Selena Sloan Butler's incredible accomplishments go. Even the park named after her has been neglected in recent years. Luckily, National Recreation and Park Association has partnered with the City of Atlanta and a number of other organizations to revive the once vibrant Butler Park.


    I'd love to speak with you about the plans for revitalization, if you find a few free minutes. Feel free to call or e-mail at your earliest convenience. Thanks!


  2. Thanks for your comment, Chris. It's good to hear revitalization efforts are underway. I'll be in touch by e-mail. All best, Wesley