Spreading The Word

Spreading The Word

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Expanding Access to African-American Religious Archival Collections of the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library received a generous grant in 2015 from the National Endowment for the to broaden access to under-represented humanities collections through a project entitled, Spreading the Word:  Expanding Access to African-American Religious Archival Collections of the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library. The Library’s Archives Research Center and Digital Services Department are collaborating to organize, describe, and digitize fourteen collections of rare materials that document African American religion spanning from the 1930s to the 2000s. These unique collections comprise varied formats, including correspondence, sermons and speeches, research files, photographs, and audio and video recordings, which document theologians and scholars, as well as Christian and Islamic ideologies.




 Church Life

James P. Brawley   

Dr. James P. Brawley (1894-1985) was the president of Clark College from 1941 to 1965. He wrote the history of the College in Clark College Legacy, and served as President Emeritus on the college’s Board of Directors until his death. Outside of his work with Clark College, Brawley was an active member of the Methodist Church. He served on the President’s Council of the Methodist Board of Education as well as several boards, commissions and committees related to social action and concerns. He worked to integrate the church through the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church. Photographs feature images and events from the life of James P. Brawley, events around campus at Clark College, and images most likely used in class instruction.


James H. Costen   

Dr. James H. Costen was Presbyterian minister and educator, and served as president of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) from 1983 to 1997. In 1969, he became the first Dean of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary – the only historically Black theological seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This seminary dates back to 1867 and the founding of Freedman’s College of North Carolina-a school created specifically to educate newly freed slaves. The Charlotte-based institution subsequently was named Biddle Memorial Institute, graduating its first class of three in 1872. Costens’s records tell the story of an active educator and administrator with the papers providing rich resources in the study of African American religion and education in the South.


Interdenominational Theological Center Photographs  

Chartered in 1958 through the mutual efforts of four interdenominational seminaries: Morehouse School of Religion, Gammon Theological Seminary, Turner Theological Seminary, and Phillips School of Theology. These seminaries came together to form one school of theology in cooperation as an ecumenical cluster and were later joined by two additional schools, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary. This collection of 1,275 photographs document the visual history of the school and its seminaries, spanning from the 1880s to the 1970s. The extent of the photographs capture all aspects of the school: buildings and grounds of current and former locations, presidents, faculty, convocations, and student life.


C. Eric Lincoln Lectureship Series   

Clark College initiated the C. Eric Lincoln Lectureship Series in 1982, featuring speakers prominent in the fields of religion and sociology.  The annual event is held in October and is now sponsored by Clark Atlanta University’s Department of Religion and Philosophy. The collection contains programs, correspondence, and transcripts related to the series. Audio and video recordings of lectures feature prominent scholars on African American religion including Jaquelyn Grant, Henry Love Whelchel, Gardner C. Taylor and John Hope Franklin.


Isaac R. Clark    

Dr. Isaac R. Clark – A Professor and administrator, Clark served as Professor of Homiletics, Director of Field Education, Registrar, and Director of the Summer Session at the Interdenominational Theological Center from 1962 to 1990. He was a lifelong member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Clark’s collection reflects his academic career through course materials, administrative records, and recorded presentations and class lectures. The recordings are of various chapel services and special programs at the Interdenominational Theological Center including a history of the ITC by Dr. Harry V. Richardson. Audio recordings present Clark as a passionate professor who used his wit and sometimes outrageous statements to keep his students engaged.


Robert Penn     

Robert Penn was a member of the ITC faculty during the 1970s. A graduate of Clark College and the ITC, Penn was a Baptist pastor in Georgia, Kansas, and Indiana, and served as a chaplain during World War II. He was active in missionary efforts in Africa, and upon his retirement from preaching, he joined the ITC faculty as director of Field Education. This collection of materials document Penn’s work at ITC, and will complement another collection of correspondence, sermons, audio recordings and photographic materials available to the public for research within the Robert E. and Lois H. Penn Collection at Emory University’s MARBL Library. Of interest in this collection at AUC are writings and correspondence during his time in WWII, speaking up for the equal treatment of Black chaplains in the service.


C. Eric Lincoln   

Dr. C. Eric Lincoln was best known as a distinguished scholar, writer and lecturer on the sociology of Black religion, race and ethnic relations in the United States, as well as an authority on the Nation of Islam and African American Muslims. This collection is a significant resource for studying African American religious groups and the scholarship around it. An important part of the collection are 180 audio and video recordings Lincoln accumulated over the years -one of a kind recordings of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Ben Chavis, some of which were collected as a result of his research into the Black Muslims and the Wilmington Ten case in North Carolina.


Bishop J. Howard Dell   

Bishop J. Howard Dell was a Senior Bishop in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Georgia, and was appointed Overseer of the Northern Georgia Jurisdiction. A pioneering minister, Dell broadcast his sermons from his pulpits in Macon, Moultrie, and Bainbridge, Georgia. He was reportedly the first African American to appear on television in Albany, Georgia. This collection contains over 700 video and audio tapes, audio reel-to-reels, and photographs. Listen to the enthusiasm of the interactions with the congregation during the sermons (Black Pentecostal churches are known for these interactions), and some of the current topics of the time that Dell and other guest speakers like Bishop Henry Louis Ford, Chandler David Owens, and Reverend Henry Mitchell talk about. Also within this collection are documents related to a highly contested split within the Northern Georgia Jurisdiction in the 1990s.  


Hercules Wilson  

Hercules Wilson was a Presbyterian minister born in 1883 in North Carolina, and was a 1911 graduate of the theological seminary at Biddle University (now known as Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary). Wilson was the first minister of the Brooklyn Presbyterian Church (a predecessor church to the current First United Presbyterian Church) in metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. This collection is comprised of hundreds of handwritten sermons that reference current events of the day, presidents, and political leaders among the more traditional sermons.


Martin Luther King Jr. Fellows in Black Religious Studies   

The Martin Luther King Fellows in Black Religious Studies, Inc. fellowship was founded in 1971 for the purpose of developing literature, curriculum, and bibliographical materials in the area of Black Church practice at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. The collection of correspondence, curriculum materials, minutes, media, printed materials, and financial documents preserves the project’s history. Contained within the collection are photographs of Fellows – mostly comprised of a trip to Africa.  Additionally, 72 audio reel-to-reel and cassette tapes provide insight to fellows’ through lectures, sermons, speeches, and interviews – one featuring a man speaking from the perspective of Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois.


Atlanta-Rome District, Georgia North Region, 6th Episcopal District of the CME Church  

The Methodist Episcopal Church South was an outgrowth of Methodism, but some African-Americans that were converted to Christianity by slave masters desired to have and control their own church. This desire led these people to start their own independent religious organization – the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, later renamed the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. The Atlanta-Rome District consists of 34 churches in Atlanta and surrounding areas. The Collection includes programs from worship services, funerals, events and church anniversaries, church histories, minutes from national and district annual conferences, and photographs.  


Anna E. Hall  

Anna E. Hall was an alumna of Clark University (now Clark Atlanta University), and was a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Liberia, Africa from 1906 to 1931.  She was the first African American to graduate from the New England Deaconess Training School in Boston, and became a deaconess and licensed minister in the Methodist Church.  This collection consists of personal diaries, sermon notes, speeches, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and photographs detailing her life’s work and missions


Levi and Jewell Terrill   

Husband and wife, Levi and Jewel Terrill, were long-time Baptist workers. Levi Terrell, a Morehouse graduate, was pastor of the First Bryan Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, and the Zion Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta. He was the president of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia from 1959 to 1971, and vice president of the NBCUSA from 1969 to 1971. Jewell Terrill, an Atlanta University Normal School graduate, served the largest predominately African American denomination in the United States, both locally and nationally in many capacities, including Assistant Recording Secretary of the Women’s Convention Auxiliary of the NBCUSA, and president of the Women’s Department of the Atlanta Baptist Association. 
An interesting part of this collection are reports, land deeds, and correspondence relating to the creation and subsequent turmoil over the closing of Central City College in Macon, Georgia that was organized by the GMBCGA. 


Society for the Study of Black Religion   

The Society for the Study of Black Religion is, “an organization devoted to scholarly inquiry about the Black religious experience, particularly from a Christian standpoint.” Founded in 1972 in New York City, this professional society is largely composed of people engaged in active teaching and/or research about Black religion.  Audio and video tapes feature prominent scholars and educators such as C. Eric Lincoln, Major J. Jones, Pauli Murray, James Cone, and Cornel West. Speeches and presentations cover a broad range of topics such as liberation theology, African American religion and culture, Black feminism, religious “cults”, and religion in the Caribbean and Africa.


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