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Guide to the Mahala Ashley Dickerson Papers, 1958-2007 and undated

Abstract

African-American lawyer and businesswoman in the states of Alaska, Indiana, and Alabama.

The personal and business papers of African American lawyer and businesswoman Mahala Ashley Dickerson span the years 1958 to 2007, the year of Dickerson's death, and chiefly consist of correspondence; newspaper clippings; real estate records; programs, letters, and additional items documenting honors, awards, and public appearances; papers concerning her homestead plot in Alaska and other personal and business concerns; photographs and videocassettes; and directories, journal publications, and pamphlets and correspondence concerning the American Bar Foundation and the Alabama State Bar Association. Business records chiefly are related to Dickerson's law firm of Dickerson & Gibbons, and the charitable organization Al-Acres, which she founded in memory of her son, Alfred, who drowned in 1960. There is some correspondence in the collection related to her memoir, Delayed Justice for Sale, which she published in 1998.

Descriptive Summary

Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Creator
Dickerson, Mahala Ashley
Title
Mahala Ashley Dickerson papers, 1958-2007 and undated
Language of Material
English
Extent
1.2 Linear Feet, Approximately 900 Items
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

The personal and business papers of African American lawyer and businesswoman Mahala Ashley Dickerson span the years 1958 to 2007, the year of Dickerson's death, and chiefly consist of correspondence; newspaper clippings; real estate records; programs, letters, and additional items documenting honors, awards, and public appearances; papers concerning her homestead plot in Alaska and other personal and business concerns; photographs and videocassettes; and directories, journal publications, and pamphlets and correspondence concerning the American Bar Foundation and the Alabama State Bar Association. Business records chiefly are related to Dickerson's law firm of Dickerson & Gibbons, and the charitable organization Al-Acres, which she founded in memory of her son, Alfred, who drowned in 1960. There is some correspondence in the collection related to her memoir, Delayed Justice for Sale, which she published in 1998 and is available in Duke's Perkins Library. Audiovisual materials consist of personal photos of Dickerson, friends, and family, and videos of the American Bar Association's Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards Ceremony for Dickerson, 1995. A box of oversized memorabilia houses a pasteboard mount of the first page of an original 1984 article reviewing Dickerson's life accomplishments, and a poster advertising Dickerson's bid for Alaska's House of Representatives in 1968. Collection is arranged in topical groupings in alphabetical order. Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Personal photos, 1984-2000s and undated

Informal color snapshots of Dickerson in various locations with friends and family, at a book signing; also some of friends and family members.

Box 1
90th birthday celebration photo album, 2002
Box 1
Class reunion photograph [?], circa 1980s

Photo features 1935 Fisk University alumni John Hope Franklin and Dickerson in front of unidentified building, very likely on campus, along with other individuals, presumably classmates of the same graduation year.

Box 1
Video cassettes, Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Ceremony, American Bar Association, 1992 and 1995
(3 items)
Box 1
American Bar Foundation information, 1986-1990
Box 1
Alabama State Bar information and correspondence, 1987-1989
Box 1
Biographical information, 1968, 1988, 2007 and undated

Includes her funeral program in which there is a short biography.

Box 2
Personal correspondence, 1982-1987; 1988 and 2005
(2 folders)
Box 2
Personal correspondence with sons John and Chris (Henri) Dickerson, 1983-1988
Box 2
Cards and invitations, 1987-2006
Box 2
Charitable work and affiliations, 1991-2005
Box 2
Routine travel and financial papers, 1987-2005
Box 2
Last Will and Testament (2 versions), 1986 and 2003
Box 2
Collected poetry anthologies (two self-published works), 1991
Box 2
Professional correspondence and papers, 1979-1997
Box 2
Homestead information, 1983 and undated
Box 2
John Dickerson property and business affairs, 1973-1990
Box 2
Articles of Incorporation and by-laws, amendments, and general records, 1970-1990
Box 2
Business gaming permit information and records; bingo financial records and related information, 1987-1990
Box 2
M. Ashley Dickerson property - 1619 Rose Park Avenue, 2005-2007
Box 2
Other real estate dealings, 1997
Box 2
Newspaper clippings and life-in-review articles, 1958-2003
Box 2
John Dickerson newspaper clippings, 1967
Box 2
Chris (Henri) Dickerson newspaper clippings, 1969, 1973
Box 2
Speaking events, public appearances, and professional affairs, 2002-2005
Box 2
Professional recognitions and honors, 2003, 2006, and undated
Box 2
Book (autobiography) publication - papers and correspondence, 1995-1997
Box 2
Political bid - Alaska State House of Representatives

Newspaper clippings and papers. Also a campaign poster in Oversize Memorabilia.

Box 2
"Mahala Dickerson: Still Fighting at 71," Maria Brooks, We Alaskans, 1984 Feb. 26

Original of article mounted on pasteboard reviewing the life and accomplishments of Dickerson. Includes two photos of Dickerson.

Oversize Folder 1
Political broadside, 1968

Original poster board for Dickerson's bid for the Alaska State House of Representatives race, Democratic ticket.

Oversize Folder 1

Historical Note

Mahala Ashley Dickerson was born on October 12, 1912 seventeen miles outside of Montgomery, Alabama, on a plantation owned by her father. Dickerson attended primary school at a private girls' school in Montgomery, and completed high school at the High School Division of the Alabama State Teacher's College. Dickerson continued on to Fisk University, where she graduated cum laude in 1935 with a degree in sociology. She married briefly in 1938 to Henry Dickerson with whom she had triplets - John, Henri Christophe (Chris), and Alfred. She would eventually continue on to Howard University's law school, becoming one of four women to graduate in her class of 1948.

During her long legal career, she was known as an advocate for the rights of the poor and underprivileged, women, and minorities. She was the first African American female attorney in her home state of Alabama in 1949, and the second black woman admitted to the bar in Indiana in 1951. After working as an attorney in Alabama and Indiana, she moved to Alaska with her sons and became Alaska's first black female attorney in 1959. Dickerson also served as the first African American president of the National Association of Women Lawyers from 1983 to 1984. She received numerous honors and awards during her career, including induction to the National Bar Association's Hall of Fame in 1999. In addition to her legal practice, she owned a real estate firm. She was a member of the Society of Friends for most of her adult life. She resided and practiced law in Wasilla, Alaska until her death on February 19, 2007.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Mahala Ashley Dickerson Papers, 1958-2007, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Provenance

The Mahala Ashley Dickerson Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2008.

Processing Information

Processed by Afua Dennis, June 2009

Encoded by Afua Dennis, Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, June 2009

Accession 2009-0073 is described in this finding aid.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.