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Black Power Movement Collections

POWER (and KNOWLEDGE) TO THE PEOPLE!

A SURVEY OF AVERY RESEARCH CENTER COLLECTIONS RELATING TO BLACK POWER

By Georgette Mayo

“Black Power, in retrospect, wasn’t such a bad thing, it wasn’t about violent confrontation,
it was an affirmation.” Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr.
[1]

In support of our upcoming conference: “The Fire Every Time”, the following is an overview of the varied collections Avery Research Center holds relating to the Black Power Movement.  Some collections,  in the case of the Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr. Papers, are obvious.  Others provide surprises and unique perspectives on closer examination.

Taking in consideration the numerous meanings of Black Power, this selection of archival resources are based on themes and topics relating to politics, cultural awareness, nationalism, Pan-Africanism, initiative, entrepreneurship, Black pride, and creative expression as it pertains to the years 1967–1975.

Politics, Cultural Awareness, Nationalism, and Pan-Africanism

Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr. Papers (AMN 1017)

Born in Denmark, SC, Cleveland Sellers started his civil rights activism during his years at Voorhees High School.  While attending Howard University,  Sellers joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and participated in various civil rights causes around the South.  He began to work full-time for SNCC as an organizer and participant in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964.  At the SNCC annual convention in 1965,  Sellers was elected Program Secretary, working with John Lewis and Stokely Carmichael (Carmichael also known as Kwame Ture,  is attributed to conceiving the term “Black Power”).

In 1968, while organizing students at South Carolina State University,  Sellers was shot in a skirmish that became known as the Orangeburg Massacre.  Three students died with many others wounded;  but Sellers, who was a bystander during the incident, was indicted and convicted for inciting the riot.  He served time in jail and was pardoned for his conviction in the Massacre in 1993. [2]

In 1987, Sellers earned a doctorate in Education Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  A former director of the African-American Studies Department at the University of South Carolina–Columbia, Sellers is currently the president of Voorhees College.

The Cleveland L. Sellers Papers contain a plethora of documents relating to civil rights work, the Orangeburg Massacre incident and incarceration, and Black Power Movement involvement.  The following are a few of the highlights relating to this topic:

  • Correspondence and contracts (1969–1973) regarding Sellers’s autobiography, The River of No Return  (Box 1, Folder 13)
  • Collection series entitled “IV Affiliations: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)” (Boxes 5 and 6)
  • Of special interest are broadsides, newspaper clippings, and photocopies of documents regarding H. Rap Brown (former SNCC national director and Black Panther Party member) (Box 6, Folder 5)

Included in the Sellers Papers are documents for the “All African People’s Revolutionary Party”, “African Peoples Related Organizations and Topics”, “Various African-American/Civil Rights, etc. Organizations”, and “Schools and Student Related Organizations”.  Items of interest are:

  • Education/Black Studies: Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU) (Box 11)
  • Original newspapers include The Black Panther newspaper 13 March 1971 with Angela Davis featured as the cover story (Oversize Materials, Box 18, Folder 3)
  • SOBU Newsletter—Student Organization for Black Unity: 20 issues (Vol. 1, #1–20, 1970–71) (Oversize Materials—Box 18, Folder 5)
  • Malcolm X Liberation University: Milwaukee Courier issue highlighting school’s opening and four issues of their publication, African Warrior newsletter (1969–1971)

Additional Resources

  • The “Cleveland L. Sellers” vertical file (Avery Research Center Reading Room) provides supplemental biographical sketches and topical newspaper clippings pertaining to Sellers.

 

James E. Campbell Papers (AMN 1113)

James E. Campbell, an African-American educator and civil rights activist, worked as a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland; New York City; and Tanzania.  He later became an administrator with the New York City public school system.  Campbell also served as contributing editor for the journal Freedomways. Relocating after retirement, he became a community activist in Charleston, South Carolina and continued his involvement with education initiatives.  Throughout his life, Campbell has worked with organizations focused on socialism, Pan-Africanism, freedom struggles, and equity in education.

  • The Student Organization for Black Unity, 1970 and undated: Booklet and form letters created by organization (Box 10, Folder 84)
  • Arts and Culture, 1969–2002 and undated (Box 19, Folder 154)
  • Malcolm X Interview, 1961–2009, undated  (Box 20, Folder 160)

 

Septima Poinsette Clark Collection (AMN 1000)

Considered the “Godmother of Civil Rights” in Charleston, Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987) is internationally recognized as an educator, lecturer, and grassroots civil rights activist. During her industrious life, Clark established citizenship education programs throughout the South, enabling enfranchisement for thousands of African Americans, and was a director of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee.

Despite her deep involvement in the nonviolent civil rights movement, Clark was cognizant and acknowledged the growing movement towards Black Power.  Her writings include discussions on the rising consciousness in African-American youth, and the need for academic departments and courses pertaining to Black history and culture.

  • Handwritten essay: “The New Resistance Movement”, 15 Jan 1969 (Box 3, Folder 16)
  • Typewritten and handwritten draft : “The Nature of the Current Revolts”, 8 May 1969 (Box 3, Folder 19)
  • Typewritten drafts : “The South Will Lead the North: New Directions in Black Politics”, and “The Meaning of Negro Strategy”, undated (Box 3, Folder 20)
  • Typewritten and handwritten drafts : “Beyond Chaos: A New History for a New Generation”, undated (Box 3, Folder 27)
  • Handwritten essay: “American Justice”, 1970 (Box 3, Folder 30)
  •  “The Dilemma of Negro/Black Americans” (Box 3, Folder 22)
  • Promotional and conference material regarding Blacks United for Action, Inc., 1971 (Box 12 Folder 1)
  • Writings of J. Herman Blake (offprint of a published article on Black Nationalism) (Box 14, Folder 18)

 

William (Bill) Saunders Papers (AMN 1100)

William “Bill” Saunders, a community and civil rights activist in Charleston, South Carolina, was an organizer and lead negotiator of the Charleston Hospital Strike of 1969.  In 1970, Saunders established the Committee on Better Racial Assurance (COBRA) to address race-related community problems and provide assistance to community members in need.  He also operated the AM radio station WPAL from 1972–1998.

 

  • Under the series of “Civic Involvement: Political Activity”, Saunders has a limited but important materials  pertaining to the Hospital Worker’s Strike of Charleston, 1969 (Box 22, Folder 198); Militancy in Charleston, 1968 (Box 25 Folder 233); and the United Citizens Party, circa 1969–1971 (Box 22, Folder 199)

 

Initiative and Entrepreneurship

W. Melvin Brown, Jr. Papers

A profile in African-American empowerment through entrepreneurship and economic power, W. Melvin Brown, Jr.’s (1934–1994) papers reveal a Charleston-born resident who excelled in the field of manufacturing and technology industries.

After a successful career as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s first African-American Insurance Consultant in 1966, Brown left the company in 1972 to establish American Development Corporation (ADCOR).  Among his numerous accolades and awards, Brown became the first African American to be inducted in the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame, with ADCOR being recognized as “The largest black-owned manufacturing firm in the United States and in the Southeast.” ADCOR has been named as one of the nation’s top 100 Black Businesses by Black Enterprise Magazine.

  • Of particular interest are speeches given by Brown that refer to topics of entrepreneurship, African-American leadership, racial equality, and the importance of education for economic advancement.  (Box 2, Folders 4, 5, and 6)

 

Black Pride and Creative Expression

Walter Pantovic Collection (AMN 1041)

An avid collector of African-American documents and artifacts, Walter Pantovic was born in Yugoslavia, immigrating to the United States with his family during his youth.  Settling in Detroit, Michigan, Pantovic was introduced to Black history in his formative years.  His interests developed in artifacts and antiques relating to slavery and the Civil War.  A small part of his collection features mid-twentieth century documents, artifacts, and ephemera.

 

Artifacts/Ephemera/Memorabilia  

  • Black Panther metal buttons: “Free Huey” with image of Huey Newton; “Free Bobby” with image of Black Panthers; and “Free Angela: Free All Political Prisoners” with image of Angela Davis. c.1960s
  • Toy Dolls c. 1970s: “J.J. Dyn-O-Mite” character doll from Good Times television program in original box; Good Times J.J. talking doll in original box; Comedian Flip Wilson double-sided “Flip Wilson” and “Geraldine” cloth talking dolls; and “Muhammad Ali—The Champ” plastic action figure doll in original unopened package.

Newspapers (Twentieth Century)

  • The Black Panther: Black Community News Service: Vol. III No. 23, 27 Sept 1969; Vol. IV No. 18, 6 Apr 1970.
  • Good Times, Vol. IV No. 20, 28 May 1971, California.  Article: “Black Panther Trial.”

 

Walter N. Boags Papers (AMN 1053)

To obtain a sense of what was in vogue in the local area, check out images from the late 1960s and 1970s photography collection of Charleston native, Walter Boags (1917–1997).

Boags left Charleston to attend photography school and returned in 1949, after which he opened his photography studio Boags Modern Arts at 32 Spring Street.  Boags Modern Arts Photography was one of the few African-American photography studios in the city.  His work spanned forty years and consisted mainly of studio portraits, weddings, and high school graduation photos.

The following boxes include images c. 1965–1975:

  • Color and black-and-white individual portraits (many graduation photographs, mostly 8×10 inches in size) (Box 36)
  • Color and black-and-white portraits of school events (featuring a few high school band and sport shots) (Box 37)

 

Additional Resources

Orangeburg Massacre Oral History Project Papers (AMN 1062)

This project documents the events surrounding the police shootings at the South Carolina State College in February 1968, which resulted in the death of three African-American students and became known as the Orangeburg Massacre.  The interviews (with transcripts) were conducted in 2001 by Dr. William Hine, Frank Beacham, Dr. Jack Bass, Dr. Marvin Dulaney, Damon Fordham, Alada Shinault-Small, and Dr. Theodore Rosengarten in different locations—many at Orangeburg—for the commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the Massacre.  The interviews were also filmed and clips from the footage were used in the documentary: The Orangeburg Massacre: Survivors Tell Their Stories.

Of particular interest:

Transcript and testimony of Dr. Cleveland Sellers interviews by Dr. Jack Bass (Feb–Mar 2001)—Sellers provides a narrative of the event and discuss his role as a leader in the struggle with the Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC) (Box 2, Folder 1)

 


[1] Adam Parker. “A lifetime of change” The Post and Courier 7 September 2008: 3F. Print.

[2] Sellers, Cleveland L. with Robert Terrell.  The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC.  Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.  (Reprint); New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1973.

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