In reconstructing the lives of African-American women whose
history is grounded in the existence of community, organizational
records can provide essential information. These materials reflect
the significant junctures whereby a concern becomes strong enough
to motivate cooperation and action among individuals.
Organizational records are often the only existing documentation of
individual African-American women.
The informational content of organizational records differs
greatly from the personal papers of individuals. Organizational
records do not usually document the opinions, beliefs, or actions
of individuals but rather, they reflect systems of beliefs and
collective actions. While organizational records may contain
membership lists which identify individual actors in the group, the
heart and soul of these materials is generally reflected in the
minutes, administrative correspondence, publications, and project
files of the group. These materials document "official" decisions,
how those decision came to be made, and the actions resulting from
these decisions. For example, the minute book of the Freedman's
Bureau reveals the internal workings of the organizations and
serves to illustrate what white women thought would help blacks
during Reconstruction, what they could do to meet those needs, and
to what extent African-American women and men worked with them or
participated in their activities.
Organizational publications serve as a group's primary tool of
communication. Newsletters, brochures, flyers, and magazines often
supply neat encapsulations or factual summaries of specific
activities, organizational structure, philosophy, and agenda.
Because publications represent how the group want to be seen by
others, they can also be interpreted as literary or artistic works.
For instance, the Black Panther publications in the Milo Guthrie
Papers graphically depict the political sentiments of the
organization. Articles, illustrations, and layout reflect group's
philosophy of the role of African-American women in the
As with a personal papers, organizational records should be
utilized with a view towards their agendas, both implicit and
explicit. Women-In-Action, Inc. was originally established to the
ease racial violence surrounding school desegregation. The group's
records can be explored to find out how the black and white
membership dealt with racial issues internally, and how the
structure of the organization has allowed the group to identify and
meet the changing needs of its community.
The list below contains records and publications of both black
organizations and white organizations in which African-American
women participated or that address issues of concern to
African-American women particularly in the 20th century. The
collections described below include a variety of educational,
vocational, political, and religious concerns with national agendas
ranging from social to philanthropic to revolutionary. Additional
organizational materials, especially those relating to religion and
19th century movements, are contained in collections described
elsewhere in this guide and can be located through the index.
- Alliance For Guidance Of Rural Youth Papers, 1887-1963. 15,900
Items. Richmond, Virginia.
- The records of A. G. R. Y. reflect the organization's
pioneering efforts in the American Vocational Guidance movement
particularly in relation to occupations for southern women and
rural youth's guidance. The papers include correspondence,
publications, writings and speeches, clippings, press releases, and
photographs. Included are plans for a "Home service course for
general maids" aimed at black domestic workers, printed materials
relating to black youth and attempts to include them in the job
corps programs of the 1940s, and studies and statistics on black
women and youth's occupations.
- George Gage Papers, 1864-1903. 2 Items & 4 Volumes.
Beaufort, South Carolina.
- Letterbooks of George Gage and the journal of his wife Sarah
Marshall Ely Gage. A letterbook (1873-1876) concerns his position
as collector of customs and superintendent of lights and includes
attendance statistics of black and white children at St. Helena's
and St. Luke's Parish schools, South Carolina. Sarah Gage's journal
contains the minutes of the Freedmen's Home Relief Association of
Lambertville, New Jersey for which Sarah was secretary in 1864. The
journal also describes her migration south to teach in a Freedman
Bureau school in Beaufort, South Carolina (1866-1867).
- Milo Guthrie Papers, 1960s-1980s. 2,038 Items & 4 Volumes.
- Papers of Milo Guthrie, white printer and commercial artist
active in social and political causes. The collection is made up
primarily of printed materials from 1972 to 1976 representing
activities and publications of new left wing political parties and
organizations. Issues include workers and labor unions, black
power, civil rights, women's liberation, farmers and farm labor,
student activism and radical participation in local, state, and
national elections. Collection include a considerable amount of
Black Panther publications.
- Carl Howie & Mary Eskridge King Papers, 1918-1973. 3,993
Items & 1 Volume. Salisbury, North Carolina.
- Papers of Carl Howie King (1898-1967), white Methodist minister
and executive secretary of the Board of Education of the Western
North Carolina Conference, 1934-1967; and of Mary Eskridge King
(1901-1973), active in affairs of the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, and president of the Women's Society of Christian Service of
the Western North Carolina Conference, 1960-1964. Additionally she
served on the Board of Christian Social Concerns and on special
committees dealing with extremism and church priorities. Her work
is given credit for preparing the Conference for its merger with
the formerly black North Carolina-Virginia Conference in 1968. Her
subject files are a good source for printed materials on racism and
Civil Rights work both within the Methodist Church and in the
nation as a whole.
- J.B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986. 307,000 Items. New York, New
- 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, statements, speeches, reprints,
clippings, broadsides, newsletters, petitions and other printed
materials. The principal focus of the collection relates to the
work and research of Matthews in the area of anti-communism shortly
after his tenure as Director of Research for the Special Committee
on Un-American Activities. Organizations represented include the
Black Panther Party, The National Negro Labor Council, the Klu Klux
Klan, the Afro-American Research Institute, the Harlem Community
Council for Housing and the NAACP. Individuals represented include
Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, James Baldwin
and many others.
- Socialist Party Of America Papers, 1900-1976. 215,262 Items
& 33 Volumes. Chicago, Ill. & New York, NY.
- 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
bi-racial Union for sharecroppers) there is consistent overlap and
interaction between the Socialist Party and the Civil Rights
Movement. The collection reflects the fact that the Party was
supported by various black activists who were also party members,
including Baynard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolf, Norman Hill of the
NAACP, and Arthur Parker; and had state chapters involved in
various local Civil Rights activities that included and affected
both black women and men.
- Women-In-Action For The Prevention Of Violence Records,
1968-1981. 3,100 Items. Durham, North Carolina.
- Records of Women In Action for The Prevention of Violence and
Its Causes, Inc., Durham Chapter, a non-profit inter-racial
organization founded in Durham in 1968. Black organizer Elna
Spaulding was the groups 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. Additionally they document the group's involvement in a
variety of issues in the Durham community.