Guide to the Fannie B. Rosser Papers, circa 1860s-1973, 2012, bulk 1920s-1973


Correspondence, legal and financial papers, printed materials, and photographs document the personal relationships and professional activities of Rosser, a successful single African American businesswoman. Correspondence, 1920s-1940s, pertains to Rosser's business ventures in regard to the management of her rental property in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Durham, North Carolina; personal loans made to family and friends during the Depression; and her investments in government stocks and bonds. Later correspondence centers around her relationships with her foster daughter, Mattie Burton Meyers, and Rosser's niece, June. A folder of printed materials includes news clippings on both family events and local politics, church programs, and obituaries, and a 2012 publication about Fannie Rosser's foster daughter, Mattie Burton Meyers, active in the NAACP in Fresno, California. Family photographs date back to about the 1860s and include an early ambrotype, cabinet cards, and snapshots of Rosser and her friends in the 1920s and her daughter's family in Fresno, Calif., in the 1960s.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Fannie B. Rosser papers
circa 1860s-1973, 2012, bulk 1920s-1973
Rosser, Fannie B.
1 Linear Feet, 750 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Collection Overview

The papers of Fannie B. Rosser document the personal and professional life of a black businesswoman within a fiscally sound African American community in Durham, N.C. Correspondence, legal and financial papers, printed materials, and photographs reflect both her business activities and her relationships with close friends and family members from the turn of the century to the 1970s.

The bulk of the correspondence until the 1950s pertains to Rosser's business ventures, including maintenance of her property, personal loans made to family and friends, and her investments in government stocks and bonds. Letters from her lifelong friend and business partner, Virginia Randolf of Lynchburg, Va., document the process of maintaining Rosser's rental property over the course of thirty years. They highlight, among other things, the apparent ghettoization of the neighborhood in which her houses were situated, and Randolf's personal and financial response to that process.

Friends and family members often deferred financial matters to Rosser, a careful and respected business woman, and were often dependent on her for monetary support. The correspondence illustrates Rosser's financial acumen and demonstrates the extent to which her personal relationships and business activities overlapped. Of particular interest is an exchange with the Wilhoite's, a couple to whom she loaned $1000, during the Depression. Their correspondence illustrates the personal nature of her business dealings and the difficulties Rosser had in balancing finances and friendships.

Later correspondence centers around Rosser's relationships with her foster daughter Mattie Burton Meyers and niece June. There are scattered references to the political climate of the 1960s, and correspondence from Mattie mentions her work with the NAACP. Also, in the printed materials there is a 2012 published biography of Mattie written by her granddaughter Sharon Revis-Green.

The printed materials consist of materials such as news clippings on both family events and local politics, church programs, and obituaries. A large series of financial and legal papers, 1895-1969, provide extensive detail on Rosser's investments, insurance policies, and legal activities. Many of these documents are associated with firms such as the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, where Rosser was employed.

The photographs in the collection date back to the early 1860s and are mostly individual portraits and group photographs of African American family members and friends. An unidentified ambrotype of an African American woman dated prior to the Civil War indicates that the family might have been free.

More Biographical / Historical Info

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Fannie B. Rosser Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1909-1962

Correspondence in the collection concerns management of real estate properties in Durham, N.C. and Lynchburg, Va., and other business matters; personal correspondence with friends and family in Lynchburg, Virginia, Fresno, California, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Arranged chronologically.

Box 1
Correspondence, 1963-1968 and undated
(5 folders)
Box 2
Legal papers, 1895-1967 and undated
(1 folder)

Deeds and assessments of property owned by Rosser in the 1920s to 1950s; stock certificates; codicils to Rosser's will; power of attorney notices from brothers James and Irvin; personal and property insurance forms; Irvin and Goldie Rosser's 1962 divorce papers. Arranged chronologically

Box 2
Financial papers, 1867-1969
(2 folders)

Promissory note dated 1867; loan forms from First National Bank to Rosser; loan forms from Rosser to other individuals; financial statements on Rosser and others; tax forms and receipts; lists of outstanding personal loans due Rosser as of 1966. Arranged chronologically.

Box 2
Newspaper clippings, 1893-1961 and undated
(1 folder)

Scattered articles and editorials on race relations; obituaries and wedding notices of family and friends. Arranged chronologically.

Box 2
Printed materials, 1920-1973, 2012 and undated
(1 folder)

Church programs from St. Joseph's A.M.E. Church in Durham, 1960s; miscellaneous invitations; 1920 ballot list; program from black “Benevolent Order,” undated; 1973 food stamp allotment form. Also includes a 2012 biography of Fannie Rosser's foster daughter, Mattie Meyers, A record of events regarding: Mattie Meyers a civil rights trailblazer, written by Sharon Revis-Green of Madera, California, Mattie Meyers's granddaughter.

Box 2
Other papers and fragments, undated
(1 folder)

Three essays (author unknown) on education, and one on Training the Negro for Social Powers; speech notes for an honorary dinner for C.C. Spaulding; list of Rosser's instructions upon her death regarding the disposition of her property in Lynchburg, Virginia, and her daughter, who was living there at the time. Most of these papers are typed but some are handwritten.

Box 2
Photographs, circa 1860s-1960s
(.2 lin. ft.)

Cabinet cards, cartes-de-visites, mounted albumen prints, tintypes, black-and-white and color snapshots, chiefly of Rosser's family and friends. Most prints ca. 1870s-1910s are unidentified but were taken by photographers in Lynchburg and Richmond, Virginia. Included are an ambrotype of woman from about the early 1860s; a tintype of Rosser's grandmother; albumen prints of Rosser as a young woman during the 1920s; and snapshots of her foster daughter Mattie Burton Meyers' family in the 1950s. Arranged by family group, then chronological therein.

Box 3

Historical Note

Fannie B. Rosser, a native of Lynchburg, Virginia, was the daughter of Edmond and Callie Rosser and sister of Maggie, Pansy, Joseph Irvin and James Boyd Rosser. Edmond Rosser was a porter for the Pullman Palace Car Company and the Rosser family apparently occupied a position of status and influence in the African American community of Lynchburg.

Rosser moved to Durham, North Carolina after being offered a position by the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in September of 1914. For thirty-two years she was employed by the Mutual, owned rental properties in both Durham and Lynchburg, and lived in Durham for the remainder of her life.

Although she never married, Rosser was a foster mother to Mattie Douglas Burton, and a guardian aunt to her brother's daughter, June Rosser. Burton married Dr. Earl Randolph Meyers of Fresno, California in 1946. They had five children, and Mattie Meyers became a leader in the Fresno chapter of the NAACP where she served as president for some time. June Rosser married Eugene Hudson Penick in 1961. She had a least three children and remained consistently financially dependent on her aunt until Rosser's death.

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The Fannie B. Rosser Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1976 and gift in 2012.

Processing Information

Processed by Ginny Daley; Jennifer Morgan

Completed January 3, 1991

Encoded by Joshua A. Kaiser