Below are descriptions of selected recent acquisitions at the Amistad Research Center. For highlights of previous acquisitions, click here.
Evelyn Cunningham Papers
The Evelyn Cunningham Papers (circa 1920-2004) consist of 6.6 linear feet documenting Cunningham's work as a journalist and activist from Harlem, New York. Her papers cover her colorful career as a columnist for the New York edition of the Pittsburgh Courier where she wrote a column entitled "The Women" chronicling African American social life in Harlem. Cunningham's activities as a journalist provided her the opportunity to meet African American statesmen, celebrities, socialites and activists. Her journalism career is documented by typescripts, photocopies, and clippings of her columns, as well as a small amount of correspondence. Of note are two undated letters from Cunningham to an unidentified individual that describe her early days with the Courier, as well as a small exchange (two letters) in 1957 with a reporter in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cunningham's notebooks include one dedicated to coverage of Martin Luther King Jr. and two devoted to the legal proceedings resulting from the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The collection also includes documentation for Cunningham's appointment as Special Assistant to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Director of the Women's Unit of the State of New York, as well as her service to Rockefeller while Vice President. Cunningham's civic involvement in such organizations as the Apollo Theater Foundation, the Harlem Congregation for Community Improvement, the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women, and others is documented through correspondence, photographs, minutes, programs, and reports. News clippings regarding Cunningham's life and career date from circa 1961-2004. A small number of photographs, many undated, depict Cunningham with friends and associates.
Lorenzo Dow Turner Papers
Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972) was an African American academic and linguist who did seminal research on the Gullah language of the Low Country of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. His studies included recordings of Gullah speakers in the 1930s. He taught at Howard University and Fisk University, created the African Studies curriculum at Fisk, served as chair of the African Studies Program at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and co-founded a training program for Peace Corps volunteers going to Africa. The Turner papers encompass approximately 4.26 linear feet of papers, photographs, sound recordings, and annotated books, offprints, and periodicals, as well as 6 feet of Turner's recording equipment. The papers consist of correspondence, writings (both by Turner and collected), family records, school records, and printed ephemera. Letters of note include a 1967 letter from William Brewer of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in which he provides his opinions on John Hope Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a 1967 letter from a graduate assistant at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, Louisiana, discussing "language problems" of her Black students.
Writings include typescripts on Gullah texts and the Sea-Island dialect of South Carolina, writings on African culture, and notebooks and gathered pages with an envelope marked "original of stories and proverbs in the Yoruba." Also present is the text of an address given by Ambassador S.O. Adeba, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, at Roosevelt University in April 1966 and a copy of Turner's dissertation on "Anti-Slavery Sentiment in American Literature Prior to 1865." Additional papers include an invitation to a series of lectures given by Turner at Roosevelt University, news clippings, a draft of a Turner's report on his research conducted on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1951, a hand script chart listing the importation of Africans into South Carolina for 1733-1807 by region of origin, and worksheets used for the Linguistic Atlas of the United States and Canada, compiled by Hans Kurath. Photographic materials include approximately 100 black and white photographs, circa 1911-1930s, including portraits of Turner, as well as candid images of him, his wife, and unidentified individuals. Of special significance is the presence of a number of wire recordings and lacquer and metal phonograph records that contain Turner's linquistic field recordings from the 1930s and 1950s. As soon as the sound recordings are inventoried, the Center will pursue funding to digitize and make these materials accessible.
Willie Lee Hart Library
Mrs. Hart's personal loyalty and dedication to the Center are also well documented and matched by caring and generous philanthropy. She recently presented Amistad with a very special donation, which was the culmination of a project that lasted over two years. According to Amistad's director of Library and Reference Services, Mrs. Hart's gift includes approximately 300 works published from 1853 (H.C. Carey's The Slave Trade, Domestic and Foreign) to a 2010 pamphlet on the Amistad Incident (Joseph Yanelli's Cinque the Slave Trader: Some New Evidence on an Old Controversy).
The collection is particularly strong in African American literature and history with notable first and early editions of works by James Baldwin, Arna Bontemps, Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carter G. Woodson, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Mrs. Hart's library also expands Amistad's strong holdings of works on African American art with works by or about Allan Crite, Jeff Donaldson, James A. Porter, Jacob Lawrence, John Biggers, and James VanDerZee. Notable titles within this oustanding collection include: an 1866 edition of George H. Moore's Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts; Daniel A. Payne's History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, published by the Publishing House of the A.M.E. Sunday-School Union in 1891; and a copy of Mary Church Terrell's A Colored Woman in a White World, signed by the author.
Mrs. Hart stated that her decision to begin donating her personal library to Amistad was based not only on her support of the Center in general, but the fact that the collection will be cataloged and made accessible to anyone with an interest in reading about African American history, culture, literature, and life. Amistad's staff has pledged to do just that. The donation is currently being inventoried and will be fully cataloged in the near future.
African American Medical Training
In June, the Center acquired a 1930 booklet that served as a proposal for the renovation of Chicago’s Provident Hospital and Training School, entitled The Love of Man for Man. Founded in 1891, Provident was the first African American-owned and operated hospital in the United States. The campaign prospectus includes architectural plans and drawings, as well as highlighting contributions by the Julius Rosenwald Fund and the Conrad Hubert Estate Fund. The only other copy reported in OCLC is at the University of Chicago.
Sharecropping and Prohibition
Railroad executive Chester H. Pond founded the town of Moorhead, Mississippi, in 1898. Pond’s belief that the existing sharecropping system in the South led to the demoralization of African American farmers led him to found the town as an alternative, industrial employment situation for workers and as a place for them to purchase homes. The plan was supported by such organizations as the American Missionary Association and the American Home Missionary Society. Katherine Newman, great-granddaughter of American Home Missionary Society secretary William Kincaid Newman, has donated a circular (circa 1893) regarding the Prohibition Industrial Colony at Moorhead. Pond emphasized a strong work ethic to those who wished to acquire homes in Moorhead, and according to the circular, “From the first day of Moorhead, Prohibition has been rigidly enforced.” The Mississippi Department of Archives and History reports a similar document, but Amistad’s is not reported in OCLC.
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