Guide to African American Documentary
Resources in North Carolina
Timothy D. Pyatt, Editor
University Press of Virginia
© 1996 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
Conditions of Use


CHALLENGING HERITAGE: African-American Documentary Resources in North Carolina

North Carolina is rich in materials for the study of African-American history and life. Yet these important resources have never been adequately accessible. This guide is one step toward the correction of a glaring deficiency. Through it, for the first time, researchers can get a brief overview of the terrain of African-Americana holdings in the Tarheel State. Used together with a growing number of repository-level guides to African-Americana, this overview should make North Carolina's holdings of these important materials among the most accessible in the United States.

The guide is a product of the ongoing work of the North Carolina African American Archives Group. Organized in the fall of 1989, the Group has as its goals the promotion of the fuller documentation of the African-American experience in North Carolina; the support of the work of African-American collections, especially in historically black colleges and universities; the better preservation of, and enhanced access to, African-Americana holdings in the state, and promotion of the wider appreciation and use of the records of African Americans in North Carolina.

Fueling these ambitions has been recognition of the fact that North Carolina is in growing danger of losing important resources for the study of African-American history and life. Few members of the state's black community want to commit their personal records to the larger repositories in the state -- institutions with which they have had few connections and from which they have not always been able to expect adequate attention to African-American subjects. On the other hand, few traditionally black institutions have had the financial, human, and physical resources to organize, preserve, and provide public access to their institutional records and holdings of private papers. Moreover, despite the riches in the written record, much of the African-American experience has never been committed to paper: it needs to be captured through oral histories, the recording of religious services, photographs, and other, non-textual means. Yet another factor militating against adequate documentation of African-American history and life, as North Carolina African American Archives Group members early realized, is the preoccupation of most institutional African-Americana collectors with slavery, Reconstruction, or Civil Rights and personages important in these stories; other dimensions and leaders of the African-American community have received much less concerted attention.

Despite this relative neglect, there are significant holdings in North Carolina repositories across the breadth of the African-American experience, as this guide makes clear. The guide is one outcome of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant, awarded in 1992, to North Carolina Central University on behalf of the North Carolina African American Archives Group. Another NHPRC-supported project, sponsored by Wayne State University, helped add data on oral history holdings. A National Endowment for the Humanities award, also to Wayne State's African-American Educational Archives project and North Carolina Central University, is supporting in-depth surveys of the archival holdings of North Carolina's eleven historically black colleges and universities. As these data are compiled and these institutions feel ready, repository-level guides will appear to deepen the summary presentations of holdings in this statewide guide and to complement the collection-level guides to the African-American holdings of some of the larger and better-funded archival repositories in the state.

North Carolina African American Archives Group members hope that wider knowledge of the more than 2,500 African-American collections and tens of thousands of volumes of printed works in the Tarheel State's more than forty-five repositories of these materials will lead private citizens, organizations, and businesses to deposit or donate their historical records in appropriate repositories. Members also hope that the Group's NHPRC-funded collection of data on the status of African-Americana holdings' organization, maintenance, and needs will inform future collaborative as well as individual institutional grant applications to leverage improvement of the documentation of the African-American experience and care of the African-American record in North Carolina. To this end, the Group is working with the North Carolina State Historical Records Advisory Board and the African-American Educational Archives Initiative.

Funding for the publication of the printed version of this guide was provided by the Randleigh Foundation Trust to the Southern Historical Collection of the Academic Affairs Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University Press of Virginia is publisher of the guide in its electronic form, so is making its Virginia and the North Carolina state guides to African-Americana research resources available together in a visionary effort to enhance scholarship on African American history and life. As individual institutional guides are made available, they will be seamlessly linked to this electronic version of the statewide guide for North Carolina, providing access to the remarkable wealth of North Carolina African-Americana holdings. In their electronic forms, the statewide and individual repository guides will be regularly updated with support from Southern Historical Collection staff. This support is only possible because of the encouragement of University Librarians James Govan and Joe Hewitt and Associate University Librarian for Special Collections Marcella Grendler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Researchers owe gratitude not only to the funders, compilers, editor, and publishers of this guide, but also to the leadership of Benjamin Speller, Dean of the School of Library and Information Science of North Carolina Central University, director of the NHPRC-funded needs assessment and survey project, and to David Olson, North Carolina State Archivist and NHPRC project codirector. That these men were able to draw on the time and knowledge of dozens of people from the archival, historical, and civic leadership circles of the sate is testimony to the respect in which they are held and to the broadening commitment of North Carolinians to a critical part of their story. Alderman Library staff members Michael Plunkett, Curator of Special Collections, and David Seaman, Coordinator of the Electronic Text Center, both provided much needed technical support and encouragement.

David Moltke-Hansen,
Director, Southern Historical Collection,
and NHPRC Project Codirector

Editor's Note

This guide contains entries of varying length and detail contributed by North Carolina repositories with original research materials documenting African Americans. Entries are arranged geographically by city and repository. Each entry gives the repository's address, telephone number (and fax, if available), hours of operation, and services offered. In several cases, INTERNET addresses are provided as well.

Every attempt has been made to make this guide as accurate as possible. Comments, additions, corrections, and revisions are welcome. Please send comments to Manuscripts Department, Wilson Library,

Timothy D. Pyatt
Assistant Curator of Manuscripts
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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