Sources created by African-Americans are important since they
are based on the actual experiences of blacks and reflect black
perspectives and interpretations on a variety of issues. The
existence of such records is rare, particularly during the period
of slavery, causing the African-American voices that do exist to
seem all the more precious.
The collections listed below are diverse in content,
perspective, and format. These collections represent
African-American women and men who were slaves, community
organizers, professional educators, successful in business, and
politically active. Because these sources originate from varied and
somewhat exceptional perspectives, they should not be perceived as
uniform or pure. For instance, users of the oral history interviews
which bring to life the actual voices of black women should
consider what impact the age, race, gender, or class of an
interviewer might have on the voices. Nonetheless, as a group, the
collection listed below are special because they are rare, and
because they offer a much less adulterated view of African-American
life than found in materials generated from an Anglo-American
The very existence of an African-American woman's collection,
such as the papers of Elizabeth Johnson Harris, Helen Grey Edmonds,
Fannie Rosser, or Clydie Fullwood Scarborough indicates a certain
level of privilege or stature on the part of the woman's life it
documents. Even the authorship of a single slave letter provides
the creator with a certain measure of immediacy and historical
authority unavailable to her in other aspects of her life. As
African-American women who were taught to write, allowed to
participate in the electoral system, and given the power to educate
others, the women documented by these collections are exceptional.
Those extant collections which center around black women must be
understood for what they are - reflections of the changing status
of African-American women in the United States, particularly the
gains made by black middle class women during the 20th century.
- Joseph Allred Papers, 1819-1864. 37 Items. Randolph Co. North
- Business papers and personal correspondence of Allred contains
a letter dated August 29, 1857 from slave Vilot Lester to "My
Loving Miss Patsy," a former owner. The letter is a passionate plea
to hear news of other family members and to enlist help in trying
to locate Lester's daughter since her current owner is willing to
buy her so that they can be together.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Cooperative Audio Tapes, Ca.
1966-1967. 33 Items. New York, New York.
- Racially integrated cooperative, the purpose of which was to
provide food, generic drugs, child care; to ensure local
employment; and to provide goods and services at a nominal cost.
Tapes of meetings, interviews, and car trips to Boston and
Washington, D.C., of various directors and committee members of the
cooperative. Issues discussed include disagreements, employment and
firings, stealing, finances, violence and gang fights, drugs,
students, and black and white division of labor.
- Neill Brown Letters 1792-1867. 45 Items. Philadelphus, North
- Letters to Brown, a white Presbyterian minister, includes one
letter from a slave reproaching Brown for turning his back on
blacks and preaching to white.
- William Henry Chafe Interviews, Ca. 1970. 99 Items & 28
Cassette Tapes. Greensboro, North Carolina.
- Tapes and transcripts of 71 interviews conducted by Chafe,
professor of History at Duke University, in preparation for his
book "Civilities and Civil Rights" which documents aspects of the
Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro, North Carolina. Interviewees
include various members of the Greensboro black community,
including teachers and former students of Bennett College and North
Carolina A & T, and others involved in local sit-ins.
- Earnest Sevier Cox Papers, 1821-1973. 13,000 Items. Richmond,
- Correspondence, writings, and printed materials of racial
separatist and white supremacist include a considerable amount of
correspondence with Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, black founder of the
Peace Movement of Ethiopia which was based in Chicago, and
correspondence with Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey concerning the
Back to African Movement.
- Duke University Oral History Program Papers, 1973-1978. Ca. 600
Items. North Carolina And Oklahoma.
- Audio cassette tapes (ca. 325) and transcripts, chiefly
concerning the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina during the
1950s and 1960s, including sit-ins in Durham, N.C., and race
relation in Oklahoma, focusing on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
- Helen Grey Edmonds Papers Ca. 1951-1976. 4,000 Items. Durham,
- Correspondence and printed materials of Helen Grey Edmonds,
Professor of History at North Carolina Central University. The two
largest groups of papers concern her interests and activities as a
member of the Republican Party, 1950s-1970s and her work as an
alternate delegate in the United Nations General Assembly in
- Elizabeth Johnson Harris Memoir Ca. 1867-1923. 1 Item. Augusta,
- 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 C. M.
E. church and the Church of the Good Shepherd, a white church that
provided Sunday school instruction to black children. Harris also
writes about her trip to Boston in the 1920s, and chronicles her
visits to black churches there. Though her husband was a laborer
who appears to have worked for an individual white family most of
his later life, the family was part of a "middle class" black
community. Her journal reflects the attitudes and community
connections in that circle of people. Also included are copies of
her poems that were published in local newspapers.
- Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, 1857-1965. 2,085 Items & 27
Volumes. Durham, North Carolina.
- Papers of Rencher Nicholas Harris (1900-1965) a business
executive of Durham, North Carolina who held positions with the
Banker's Fire Insurance Company of Durham and who was Durham's
first black City Councilman and the first black member of the Board
of Education. The collection is probably most valuable for its
contents touching on Harris' career in Durham City and County
politics in the 1950s and early 60s, especially on the matter of
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 had
some influence on Harris' decision to go into politics.
- Thaddeus Ellis Harris Papers, 1916-1933. 219 Items. North Fork,
- Correspondence, legal, and financial papers of attorney in
McDowell Co., West Virginia. Legal and financial papers include
insurance policies, deeds, receipts, promissory notes, divorce and
parole petitions. There are also several warm and affectionate
letters from wife, Mary, which include several references to their
teenaged daughter and a letter dated May 27, 1925 which gives a
good view of housekeeping chores.
- Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1818-1931. 2,944 Items & 18
Volumes. Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Personal and professional papers of Charles N. Hunter
(ca.1851-1931), educator and editor who was prominent in the effort
to provide better educational facilities for black students in
North Carolina and was instrumental in having several schools for
black students constructed in the state. As a member of the North
Carolina Industrial Association he also sought to expand the
opportunities for blacks in agriculture and industry. In addition
to correspondence concerning family life and personal finance, the
papers reflect Hunter's various political activities on behalf of
black people. It also includes 17 scrapbooks containing clippings
and other items concerning race relations and
social/political/economic affairs pertaining to
- Joseph Long Papers, 1820-1902. 209 Items. Stevensburg,
- Letters of Joseph Long, Lieutenant in the First Regiment of the
Virginia Military in 1814 and Captain in the 51st Regiment from
1821-1835. The collection consists mostly of letters written to
Long by friends and relations who left Virginia and moved west to
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, or Missouri before 1860. The letters
intermittently discuss slavery and the price of slaves. Included is
a letter written by a former slave who had escaped to Canada in
1840. The letter is a detailed account of the two years he spent
traveling to Canada, his employment, the men who pursued him, and
his current situation. His wife is with him, though it is not clear
whether she ran with him or met him in Canada. He also talks of his
feelings of hostility towards the United States and his
ex-mistress, who he hopes is in Hell.
- Winfield Henry Mixon Papers, 1895-1932. 10 Items And 7 Volumes.
- Papers of Mixon who was an official of the African Methodist
Episcopal Church, and the organizer of the first African American
women's conference in Nashville in 1895. In addition to scattered
clippings concerning the conference, the collection includes travel
journals sporadically kept from 1895-1915 which contains the names
of community members he worked and stayed with as he carried out
his job as a presiding elder.
- Fannie B. Rosser Papers, 1867-1968. 1 Linear Foot. Durham,
- Personal and business papers of Fannie B. Rosser, secretary for
the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Co. in Durham, North Carolina,
and property owner in Durham and Lynchburg, Virginia. The papers
reflect the intimate connection between her role as a business
woman and her personal relationships. It is an important
illustration of a black businesswoman's life in a fiscally sound
black community, her subsequent activities, and obligations.
Correspondents include her foster daughter, Mattie Douglas Burton,
leader in the Fresno, California chapter of the NAACP. Photographs
of Rosser's family and friends in the Durham community are also
- Eva J. Salber Papers, 1975-1984. Ca. 1,000 Items. Durham, North
- Oral history tapes, transcripts, slides, photographs, and other
background material relating to Salber's interviews with elderly
rural people in northern Durham County which provided the basis for
Salber's book, Don't Send Me Flowers When I'm Dead (1983). Many of
the photographs and tapes are with black women who discuss the
various facets of their lives such as work, family, household
chores, church and community.
- Clydie Fullwood Scarborough Papers, 1923-1983. 950 Items.
Durham, North Carolina.
- Chiefly personal and professional papers of Mrs. Scarborough,
manager of the Scarborough Nursery School in Durham for over fifty
years. Includes scrapbooks, clippings, printed material, and
photographs relating to the nursery school. Also letters from her
husband, John Clarence Scarborough (1877-1972) founder of the black
Scarborough-Hargett Funeral Home in Durham, her mother, family
photographs, and other genealogical information about her father's
family the Fullwoods.
- Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, 1930-1983. Ca. 36,500 Items.
Durham, North Carolina.
- Personal and business correspondence, printed material, legal
and other papers relating to businessman Asa Timothy Spaulding's
many business, religious, civic, educational and political
interests, including his involvement with the North Carolina Mutual
Life Insurance Company and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank in Durham
North Carolina. Elna Bridgeforth Spaulding's personal and
professional papers, including those from her tenure as Durham
County Commissioner (1980-1984), are included.
- Phillis Wheatley Papers, 1770. 1 Item. Boston,
- Letter of poet Phillis Wheatley, while she was still a slave
owned by the Wheatley family of Boston, written for Nathaniel
Wheatley, concerning a lawsuit.