USM Special Collections earns grant for documentary preservation work

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The important work of providing access to historical material in University Libraries’ Special Collections division at The University of Southern Mississippi is getting a boost through grant support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration.

The NHPRC’s mission is promotion of the preservation and use of the country’s documentary heritage essential to understanding the nation’s democracy, history, and culture.

The grant – $135,828 from NHPRC, with $70,178 in-kind matching funds from USM to increase access to collections – will support processing, digitization, and development of finding aids for existing collections significant to the history and culture of Mississippi. Select material will be digitized and featured in online presentations.

Collections selected for the grant include the following:

*Raylawni Branch Collection: Branch is a Hattiesburg native and civil rights activist who, along with Gwendolyn Armstrong Chamberlain, integrated USM in the 1960s as its first African American students.

*Emilye Crosby Civil Rights Collection: Dr. Crosby was coordinator of SUNY’s Black Studies/Africana program from 2002-18 and won the McLemore Prize for her first book, A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi.

*Mary Ann Wells Collection: Wells, worked at the Hattiesburg American newspaper from 1977 to 1981 as an award-winning photojournalist, feature story writer and weekly columnist.

*Henry Lee Rodgers Papers: Rodgers served as a Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1960-1976. Previously, from 1946-1950, he served as District Attorney for the 5th Judicial Court District and earlier in private practice. Before becoming a Justice, he served as a circuit judge. The collection documents this era in the state’s judicial history

*Harvey Edward West collection: West served as chief of staff for Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson (1964-1968), whose administration oversaw a time of economic and industrial growth, as well as increased racial tensions, in the state.

*O’Keefe Family Archive: The archive documents the family’s prominent role in the Mississippi Gulf Coast political, business, and philanthropic spheres.

*Sheila Michaels Papers, 1963-1999: Michaels was a civil rights activist and feminist who joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1961 and the following year worked for both CORE and SNCC in Jackson where she also worked very briefly for the Mississippi Free Press. During Freedom Summer 1964, she was project manager of Council of Federated Organizations’ (COFO) Hattiesburg Project.

*Sue Sojourner Collection, 1974-2014: Sojourner was a prominent Mississippi civil rights activist, first in Holmes County and then later made history by helping organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the delegation of which famously challenged and walked out of the Democratic National Convention and is credited with bringing about the Voters Rights Act of 1965. After leaving the state in 1969, she settled with her husband Henry in Washington, D.C., adopted the surname “Sojourner” and became involved in the women’s liberation and lesbian movements.

*Tasha Tudor Collection: Acclaimed author and illustrator Tudor began her career illustrating children’s books in 1938, writing and illustrating fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and stories. In addition to numerous other awards and honors, two of her works, Mother Goose and 1 Is One, were named Caldecott Honor Books.

*Tana Hoban Papers, 1938-2006: Hoban began her career in advertising and magazine illustration. The daughter of Russian immigrants, she was one of the first in her field to photograph people of different ethnicities. By 1950, her work was included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and in 1953 she was the only woman mentioned in a Time magazine portfolio on “Half a Century of U.S. Photography.” In 1959, she was named one of the Top Ten Women Photographers by the Professional Photographers of America.

*George Edward Stanley collection, 1984-2010: Stanley wrote more than 100 books for children and young adults, including his critically acclaimed Rats in the Attic and Night Fires. Stanley wrote his early series “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys” books using pseudonyms. An ongoing contributor to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, the bulk of his collection was added to the holdings after his death in 2011.

Special Collections offers a variety of historical resources ranging from 15th-century illuminated manuscripts to Civil War letters, Civil Rights documents and current Mississippiana. It is comprised of four units: University Archives; Rare Books and Mississippiana; Historical Manuscripts; and the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

University Libraries Associate Professor Lorraine A. Stuart, who is Head of Special Collections/Curator of Historical Manuscripts and Archives, will lead the two-year grant project, which, in addition to increasing access to the collections, will provide multiple opportunities for hands-on materials preservation and presentation experiences for USM Library and Information Sciences and Humanities graduate students.

“This project will help make them (students) very marketable in our field, because by the time they have finished their academic program they would have done the work of processing collections, developing online finding aids for the materials, and created online exhibitions,” Stuart said.

For more information about University Libraries and Special Collections, visit

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