Special Collections Library
Durham NC 27708-0185
Phone: (919) 660-5820
Fax: (919) 684-2855
Hours: Fall and Spring Semesters: Monday-Thursday 9:00 a.m.-9:00
p.m.; Friday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Saturday 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Remainder of Year: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Saturday 1:00
Services: photocopying available (with some restrictions)
The Special Collections Library at Duke University contains more than 200,000 printed volumes and upwards of 9,500,000 items in manuscript and archival collections. Among these holdings are a wealth of material concerning African-American history and culture. The library safeguards letters, lists, ledgers, photographs, films, and rare books documenting some three centuries of African-American experience. The collection is especially strong regarding nineteenth century slavery, and African-American life in the post-World War II civil rights era.
Below is a representative, but in no way exhaustive, account of material related to African-American life available at Duke University's Special Collections Library. The account is arranged chronologically and is drawn, often verbatim, from several of the library's manuscript guides: Richard C. Davis and Linda Angle Miller's Guide to the Cataloged Collections in the Manuscript Department of the William R. Perkins Library, Duke University (1986) and Jennifer Morgan and Virginia Daley's Retrieving African-American Women's History: A Methodological Guide to Sources in the Perkins Library Manuscript Department (1989). Parties wishing a more detailed reckoning of African-American materials at Duke are strongly urged to use the Morgan and Daley guide as a starting point. Those desiring information about the Special Collections Library in general should request the library's brochure.
The library is continually working to expand the scope and depth of its African-American holdings. Special Collections is especially interested in documentary materials concerning African-American life in the post-World War II civil rights era and items regarding African-American life in the Jim Crow South (the 1890s through the 1930s).
The address to the library's World Wide Web home page is as follows: http://odyssey.lib.duke.edu
Racially integrated cooperative, the purpose of which was to provide food, generic brand medicines, child care; to ensure local employment; and to provide goods and services at nominal cost. Tapes of meetings, interviews, and car trips to Boston and Washington DC, of various directors and committee members of the cooperative. Issues discussed include internal dissension, employment and firings, theft, the cooperative's finances, local violence and gang fights, drugs, students, and black and white division of labor.
Collection contains the journal of Freedmen's Bureau agent in Charleston, South Carolina, James Beecher. Volume contains summaries of complaints brought to him by various freedmen. Material documents the transition from slave to wage labor undergone by many black southerners.
Business correspondence of Lenox Castle County, North Carolina landholder, Archibald Boyd. Included in the collections are letters from slave trader Samuel R. Browning reporting on the health of slaves, the conditions of the market, and the effect of a cholera scare on his sales. One letter describes a woman who gave birth while she was part of one of Browning's coffles.
Correspondence of white Baptist preacher and landholder in South Carolina and Georgia. Included in the collection are a contract concerning "Conditions For Hiring Negroes by the Georgia Railroad and Booking Co., 1855," and lists of slaves divided by family groups. Letters discuss slaves and race relations, largely giving insight into white perceptions.
Personal and political papers of John Emory Bryant. Correspondence from his tenure as a solider in the 8th Maine volunteers describes black religious practices and the organization of slaves during an owner's absence. In 1865, Bryant worked as an agent in the Freedmen's Bureau in Augusta, Georgia. His letterbook and his wife's journal of 1865-1866 outline the work of a bureau agent and speak to the chaos and destitution surrounding those ex-slaves who flooded Augusta in the wake of the war. Included in the collection are a series of letters from Henry McNeal Turner, black Republican later noted as a bishop of the African Methodist church and as a staunch emigrationist. Also included are the correspondence, letterbook, and scrapbook of William Anderson Pledger, a black Republican and educator.
Letterbooks and accounts of prominent Virginia planter Robert Carter. Carter owned and/or administered eighteen plantations. By 1791 he owned about 2,400 slaves. His records reveal a meticulous attention to his various businesses and disclose a great many details of the lives, training, and hiring of his slaves.
Tapes and transcripts of 71 interviews conducted by William Chafe, professor of history at Duke, in preparation for his book on the civil rights movement in Greensboro, North Carolina: Civilities and Civil Rights . Interviewees include various members of Greensboro black community, including teachers and former students of Bennett College and North Carolina A. and T., and others involved in local sit-ins.
Log book of the slave ship Christopher , detailing its journey, 1791-1792, from Liverpool England, to the Congo (now Zaire) river estuary, to Barbados and Dominica, and back to Liverpool. Volume includes instructions to the ship's captain, Charles Molyneux, an invoice of goods on board, crew list with wages, receipts for slave sales, and account of outfitting costs.
Letters and papers of Francis P. Corbin and his family. From 1828, the content of the collection focuses on Corbin's financial interests, including the maintenance of his Louisiana sugar plantation. Business letters from Paris, where he relocated in 1830, include reports on crops and conditions of slaves. Of particular interest are slave lists, ca. 1712, from the Ripon Hall plantation in York County, Virginia. The lists are extensive, documenting family ties between slaves and listing clothing and supplies distributed to approximately 60 slaves.
Personal and financial papers of the Cronly family of Wilmington, North Carolina. Jane M. Cronly's short stories and memoirs are devoted in large part to her family's relationship with their slaves, both before and after emancipation. Also included are two small volumes dealing with the 1898 Wilmington race riot.
Records of Freedmen's Bureau in Brunswick County, Virginia, including lists of former slaves who worked on a government farm and drew federal assistance. The collection also contains contracts between black workers and white employers.
Films and photographs of Atlantan Griffith J. Davis, U.S. Technical Assistant to Liberia and agent to the Liberian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Among the negatives, films, and videotapes that form the core of this collection are images of Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the Palmer Memorial Institute, a private junior and senior high school for blacks in Sedalia, North Carolina. Also included are documentary and personal films shot in Liberia in the 1950s; among them a birthday party for the daughter of a middle-class family, a film on Liberian industry and life narrated by Sidney Poitier and funded by the U.S. Point IV program, and shots of Liberian masquerades and stilt dancers. Collection also contains Griffith's recording of William Tubman's presidential inaugural. Contact sheets feature Liberian masks -- many from the Dan -- and stills of Liberian men and women. (Complemented by the library's George Way Harley Papers and the Duke Museum of Art's Harley collection of Liberian Art.)
Papers of a prominent and wealthy white family. The majority of the collection falls between 1839 and 1900, and is primarily correspondence concerned with personal and family affairs. There are comments on slavery and manumission, as Thomas P. Devereaux (1793-1869) was a lawyer and planter who owned more than 1000 slaves. A volume in the collection contains the accounts for three plantations; included are extensive slave lists.
Audio cassette tapes and transcripts, chiefly concerning the civil rights movement in North Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s, including sit-ins in Durham. Other tapes focus on race relations in Oklahoma during the Tulsa race riot of 1921. Interviews conducted between 1973 and 1978.
Correspondence and printed material of Helen Grey Edmonds, professor of history at North Carolina Central University in Durham. The two largest groups of papers concern her activities as a member of the Republican Party from the 1950s into the 1970s, and her work as an alternate delegate to the United nations General Assembly in 1970.
Diary of Kate Foster, Adams County, Mississippi. Approximately two-thirds of the entries date from the latter half of 1863 and concern the Civil War, with attention to the effect of the war on her home and on local blacks. The diary provides rich illustrations of slave desertion, many of the absconders being women with children.
An executor's records of settlements of estates, household expenses, and labor. Includes a written agreement between a Virginia planter and his slaves regarding their continued service after the general emancipation. Briefly noted are former slaves -- both men and women -- who had "absented themselves" from the plantation without permission.
Letterbooks of George Gage and the journal of his wife Sarah Marshall Ely Gage. Sarah Gage's journal contains minutes of the Freedmen's Home Relief Association of Lambertville, New Jersey, for which Sarah was secretary in 1864. The journal also described Sarah's journey south to teach at a Freedmen's Bureau school in Beaufort, South Carolina (1866-1867).
Records of slave imports to the state of Georgia -- contains descriptions, including name, age, and sometimes occupation and physical characteristics of slaves.
Correspondence and financial papers of William Gibbons Jr., wealthy rice planter and justice of the peace in Chatham County, Georgia. The bulk of the collection begins in the 1750s and describes life on some of Georgia's early large plantations. Papers document the management of a large low country plantation, including a series of comments on the purchase, management, and sale of slaves.
The letters and papers of Tyre Glenn -- planter, constable and slave trader who entered the business in the early 1820s. Collection contains many receipts for slaves sales, as well as information on profit margins and overhead. Correspondence sheds light on the business of slave trading, and the character and life of the trader.
The papers of white commercial artist and social activist contains publications from left wing political parties and organizations. Included among them are publications from black activist organizations: The African World (1973), Black Ink (1969), The Black Liberator (1969), and others. The collection contains a three-year run of The Black Panther (1969-1971), the organ of the Black Panther Party.
Papers of clergyman, educator, journalist, and civil rights spokesman of Richmond, Virginia, Gordon Blaine Hancock (1884-1970). Hancock was professor of economics and sociology at Virginia Union University in Richmond where he taught one of the nation's first race relation courses and helped to organize the Torrance School of Race Relations in 1931. The Bulk of the collection consists of photocopies of Hancock's newspaper column, "Between the Lines", which he wrote from 1928 to 1965 and was syndicated to some 114 black newspapers. In the column, Hancock addressed black social, economic, political and education concerns. Some material relates to the Southern Regional Council and its 1942 meeting in North Carolina where members published their post-war demands as the "Durham Manifesto." Among Hancock's correspondents were Benjamin E. Mays, Guy B. Johnson and Jessie Daniel Ames. Materials in the collection were compiled by Duke Professor Raymond Gavins for his study The Perils and Prospects of Southern Black Leadership .
Memoir of Elizabeth Johnson Harris, born in 1867 of ex-slave parents in Augusta, Georgia. The memoir provides information on the black community in Augusta as connected to the Rock of Ages African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) and the Church of the Good Shepherd, a white church that provided Sunday school instruction for black children. Harris also writes about her trip to Boston in the 1920s, chronicling visits to black churches there. Journal reflects attitudes and community connections of black middle class. Also included are copies of Johnson poems that were published in local newspapers.
Papers of Rencher Nicholas Harris (1900-1965), a business executive of Durham, North Carolina who held positions with the Banker's Fire Insurance Company, and who was first black city councilman as well as the first black member of the local Board of Education. The collection is probably most valuable for those papers related to Harris's career in Durham politics in the 1950s and early 1960s, especially concerning such matters as race relations and civil rights. Of particular interest is his infrequent correspondence with Carla Myerson Eugster, a political activist in the local civil rights movement who appears to have influenced Harris's decision to enter politics.
Correspondence, legal, and financial papers of attorney in McDowell County, West Virginia. Legal and financial papers include insurance policies, deeds, receipts, promissory notes, and petitions for divorce and parole. There are also several warm and affectionate letters from Ellis's wife Mary which include references to the couple's teenage daughter as well as domestic chores and community relations.
Account book of a white physician in Chatham County, North Carolina. Book includes numerous entries concerning the treatment of slaves. Only rarely are the records specific about gender of patient or the treatment prescribed. They do, however, document the frequency of illness on specific plantations.
Personal and business correspondence of Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick, professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1854-1856, and examiner in the U.S. Patent Office, Washington D.C., 1861-1886. University officials expelled Hedrick for his views on slavery and he was forced to leave the state in 1856. Included in the collection are the letters of Mary Ellen Thompson, Hedrick's wife, who writes to him describing the state of affairs in Chapel Hill following the Civil War. She notes the self-activity of black women and men as it concerned party politics, suffrage, and the Ku Klux Klan.
Materials collected by Chris Howard while researching undergraduate honors thesis: "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: The Black Struggle for Civil Equality in Durham, North Carolina, 1954-1963." Mainly, material consists of research notes and interviews with local informants, including Floyd McKissick, Joycelyn McKissick, W. G. Pearson, Vivian McCoy, Mary Trent Semans, and Ruth Dailey.
Personal and professional papers of Charles N. Hunter of Raleigh, North Carolina (ca. 1851-1931) -- educator and editor who was prominent in the effort to provide better educational facilities for black students and who was instrumental in winning the construction of several schools for black children. Professional correspondence includes letters from black women seeking employment as teachers. Personal correspondence includes letters home from his daughters while they were attending school. One daughter writes of her academic and social life at Hampton (Hampton, Virginia) during the 1890s. In addition to correspondence concerning Hunter's family life and personal finances, the collection includes 17 scrapbooks containing clippings and other items on race relations and the social, political, and economic affairs of black Americans -- included, for example, is material on temperance and the challenges faced by blacks following the Civil War.
Predominately, collection of public school records for Granville County, North Carolina where Jenkins was Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1881 through 1895. Records provide a wealth of information on conditions in the schools. Teacher and pupil lists, attendance records, teacher salaries, average length of school term, and number of school-aged children broken down by race and gender are some of the data included. There are also written reports and memos by black teachers and superintendents.
Correspondence, writings, printed materials, and photographs chiefly concerning Kaine's administrative work at Tuskeegee Institute (Tuskeegee, Alabama) during the 1890s. During her tenure at the school, Kaine developed close ties with Booker T. Washington, Washington's wife Margaret, and the couple's children. Kaine's letters home to Milwaukee describe Washington's management style and educational philosophy, Kaine's interaction with the Washington children, and her numerous forays into the homes and churches of Tuskeegee. Also included are letters to Kaine from Margaret Washington after the former's return to Wisconsin, ca. 1900-1910.
Business and personal papers of John Richardson Kilby (1819-1878) and Wilbur John Kilby (1850-1878), father and son lawyers of Suffolk, Virginia. Correspondence is dotted with numerous references to the African Colonization Society. Included is a letter from a former Kilby slave detailing the conditions and activities of the family's former slaves now settled in Liberia.
Letters of a Boston businessman during and after the Civil War. Kinsley discusses black troops stationed in the South, particularly the 55th Massachusetts regiment in South Carolina and Georgia, but with mention of the 54th Massachusetts and the 35th. One item touches on reactions to a black public safety officer in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Personal and business papers of Louis Manigault and the Manigault family who began to acquire rice-planting land in the mid-eighteenth century, and by 1850 owned several plantations. The papers concerning their plantations begin in 1837 and continue through 1883. There are work schedules, slave lists, and instructions to overseers on the care of slaves and the management of plantations. One of the volumes in the collection is an 1852 prescription book concerning the medical treatment of plantation slaves.
Papers of J. B. Matthews, white Methodist missionary, college professor, and prominent conservative spokesman. The bulk of the collection falls between the 1930s and the 1960s, and includes correspondence, memoranda, speeches, clippings, broadsides, newsletters, and other printed materials. The principal focus of the collection relates to Mathew's work and research in the area of anticommunism after he had completed his tenure as Director of Research for the Special Committee on Un-American Activities. Organizations and personalities touched on in his work include the following: the Black Panther Party, the National Negro Labor Council, the Ku Klux Klan, the Afro-American Research Institute, the Harlem Community Council for Housing, the NAACP, Ralph Abernathy, Jessie Jackson, Coretta Scott King and James Baldwin.
Papers of English-born Methodist minister William George Matton. After the Civil War, Matton moved to North Carolina from New York to further the ministry of the Methodist Church North. Among other things, his detailed memoirs comment on relations between black and white church members, speak of a visit to Charlotte's black Calvary church, and describe the ordination of a black minister.
Papers of Winfield Mixon, official with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the organizer of an 1895 African-American women's conference in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to scattered clippings concerning the conference, the collection includes travel journals kept sporadically from 1895 to 1915 that contain the names of community members Mixon worked and lodged with as he carried out his duties as a church elder. Papers contain scattered references to Masonry and Payne University in Selma, Alabama.
Mostly advertisements for minstrel shows, plays, and musicals. With few exceptions, black actors and actresses comprise show casts.
Tax records for towns in Anson County list county, state, school and road taxes paid by whites and blacks. Full data entered in separate columns comprise a 4-year series, 1903-1906.
The collection contains the autobiography of the Reverend John Rankin and the biography of John Parker, an ex-slave who Rankin worked with on the Underground Railroad. Parker was born in slavery and bought his freedom in 1845. Included in the Parker biography is the story of one Eliza's escape to freedom by crossing the Ohio. Supposedly, Harriet Beecher Stowe appropriated the story for her Uncle Tom's Cabin .
Daily record of work done by slaves on plantation in Hampton County, South Carolina from 2 February 1828 through 13 July 1829. The journal author notes which slaves are out sick and which have run away. The volume illustrates the division of labor on a medium sized plantation.
Personal and business papers of Fannie B. Rosser, secretary for the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company in Durham, North Carolina, and property owner in Durham and Lynchburg, Virginia. To the 1950s, the bulk of the papers concern Rosser's business ventures: property maintenance, loans tendered, and investments made. Material from the 1960s tend to be more personal, consisting of Rosser's correspondence with her daughter Mattie and with her niece June. Nevertheless, items from this later period contain scattered references to the NAACP and other civil rights matters.
Papers of a Massachusetts abolitionists. In 1864 Russel moved his family to Tennessee to manage a plantation run by former slaves. The letters of Russel's daughter Lucy describe her experiences teaching former slaves in her new home.
Chiefly personal and professional papers of Clydie Scarborough, manager of the Scarborough Nursery School in Durham for over fifty years. Included are clippings, printed material, and photographs relating to the nursery school. Also included are letters from Scarborough's mother and correspondence from her husband -- founder of the Durham's Scarborough-Hargett Funeral Home -- John Clarence (1877-1972). Collection contains family photographs and genealogical information about the family of Scarborough's father, the Fullwoods.
Journal of Mrs. Smith describing a voyage from Boston, Massachusetts to Savannah, Georgia, in 1793. In the first third of the journal, the author makes numerous observations concerning the work and religion of the slaves there. Smith notes, for example, that slaves have a black religious leader and that whites sometimes attend black religious services for entertainment or out of curiosity.
The papers of William Smith, member of Parliament, relate chiefly to the movement in England to abolish slavery. There are letters from planters in Jamaica, St. Vincent, Bermuda, Nevis, Barbados, and Berbice discussing the condition of slaves and slavery on the islands. Extensive printed and miscellaneous papers include research notes on the number of ships involved in the slave trade, the rate of death on slave ships, methods of obtaining slaves, eyewitness accounts of slave treatment, an illustration of how space is allotted on slave ships, and runaway statistics from various islands.
Correspondence, minutes, speeches, convention proceedings, and organizers' reports of the Socialist Party of America. The papers chronicle the activities of American Socialists both within their party and in their contacts with other individuals, organizations, and movements during the 20th century. Beginning in the 1930s, with the party's organization of the Southern Tenant Farmer's Union -- a biracial, sharecropper's organization -- there is consistent overlap and interaction between the Socialist Party and the civil rights movement. The work of black activists Baynard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolph, Norman Hill, and Arthur Parker emerges from the collection at various points. The party had state chapters that were involved in activities organized by local civil rights groups.
Personal and professional correspondence, printed material, legal and other papers relating to Asa Spaulding's many business, religious, civic, educational and political interests, including his involvement with two prominent Durham establishments: the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank. Elna Bridgeforth Spaulding's personal and professional papers are also part of the collection, including materials pertaining to her tenure as a Durham County Commissioner (1980-1984). Restricted Collection.
Papers of a merchant, governor of Georgia, and delegate to the Continental Congress. Telfair's mercantile firm dealt in slaves, among other things, and the correspondence includes discussions of the management of slaves, purchase and sale of slaves, the problem of runaway slaves, slave mortality rates, the difficulty of selling closely related slaves, and the relations between whites and free blacks.
Civil War-era journal of Ella Thomas, who lived with her husband on the Belmont plantation in Richmond County, Georgia. The Thomases owned ninety slaves and often went to a black church to hear black preachers. The diary comments on slave weddings and revivals, reviews Uncle Tom's Cabin , and discusses relationships among black women and white men. Of particular interest are two letters from a former Thomas slave dated the early 1900s.
Papers and records of Amber Arthun Warburton (1898-1976): teacher, librarian, New Deal administrator, and executive secretary and director for research for the Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth. Her records include documents generated while teaching economics as Spellman College (Atlanta, Georgia) in 1929. Included are student autobiographies and economic surveys of some of Atlanta's black neighborhoods.
Personal and business papers of Greensboro, Alabama, lawyer and planter Henry Watson. Among them is information concerning the establishment of the Planter's Insurance Company, fear of a slave insurrection in 1860, slave impressment during the Civil War, and postwar labor contracts between blacks and their former masters. Volumes include plantation accounts, 1834-1866, and records of black laborers, slave and free, 1843-1866.
Volume contains a compendium of lawsuits and cases aired before agents of the Freedmen's Bureau, 1865-1868. Among the disputes are the suits of black men to recover their wives from ex-slaveholders who refuse to set the women free.
Records of Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, a nonprofit, interracial organization organized in Durham in 1968. Elna Spaulding was the group's founder and first president. The records reflect the organization's primary goals of easing racial tensions and smoothing the way for court ordered school desegregation in 1970. Restricted.
Over the past 30 years historians have coaxed sensitive and compelling histories of African-American slave life from materials authored by those other than slaves themselves. From plantation journals, estate accounts, diaries and slave lists, scholars have reconstructed black family life, religious culture, work patterns, and social structure. The collections listed below reflect the importance of non-slave sources in the writing of slave history.
Special Collections holds much more material on African-American life during slavery than can be listed here, including a number of accounts generated by former slaves. The library's rare book holdings include more than 20 autobiographical works by former slaves from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; among them The address of Abraham Johnstone (1797), Memoir of Old Elizabeth, a colored women (1866), and A narrative of the most remarkable particulars in the life of James Albert Ukawsaw, an African prince (1770). Moreover, though not always noted below, letters from slaves manumitted to Liberia emerge in the collection at several points. They can be located using the subject file of the Special Collections card catalog. See, for example, the letter dated 2 August 1857 in the Malone Ellis papers. The library also holds an important collection of broadsides, pamphlets, circulars, and other printed materials that allow insight into African-American life during slavery. See, for example, The Road and Patrol Laws of Georgia (1863), Religious Instruction of the Negro (1861), and An Account of the late intended insurrection among a portion of the blacks of this city (Charleston 1822).
Though not as vast as Special Collections material on black life during slavery, items at Duke concerning African-American life during Reconstruction are also too voluminous to list here. The material listed below touches on major themes from the period, suggesting the shape of the collection as a whole. Black mobility, African-American political activity, the transition to wage and contract labor, white violence and black response are a few of the areas represented in the collections. The Davis and Miller guide cites many other relevant materials.
The library contains a good mix of first-and third-person accounts of black life during the age of Jim Crow. Personal memoirs and correspondence, organizational records, and pertinent government material are each represented in the collection. Interviews are also prevalent. See, for example, the material on the Tulsa race riot of 1921 in the papers of the Duke University Oral History Program.
Over the next few years, the library hopes for substantial growth in materials related to African-American life in the Jim Crow South. Special Collections has been selected as the primary repository for an extensive, South-wide collection of interviews concerning the period: "Behind the Veil: African-American Life in the Jim Crow South" (The project is being conducted by the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and has been made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities). We hope to supplement this future deposit with as much personal correspondence, material culture, photographs, business data, educational material, and organizational records as is possible.
As with material listed under other time periods, the collections listed are only representative. Interested parties will profit from consulting the aforementioned collection guides. The library's Rare Book Room, for example, contains a copy of The Negro Directory of Raleigh, Franklinton, Durham, and Henderson (1922?). Also, materials listed in this survey as "Post-World War II" are sometimes relevant to the Jim Crow era as well, most notably the Fannie B. Rosser Papers, the Clydie Fullwood Scarborough Papers, the Asa Timothy Spaulding Papers, and the Gordon Blaine Hancock papers.
The library holds a good number of materials on black life in the civil rights era. The collection is especially strong in documenting the life and labors of Durham's prominent black middle class.