The Avery Research Center is currently working to provide digital access to its holding, prioritizing those collections with highest research value. All digitized collections are currently available through the Lowcountry Digital Library. Digitization has largely been made possible by a grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation.
The Lowcountry Digital Library
The Lowcountry Digital Library digitizes and makes accessible unique local resources. In order to provide a well rounded digital collection, the library works with partner institutions in a collaborative manner to ensure the overall quality of the digital library. Moreover, it provides professional training and support for archive, library, and museum professionals throughout the region.
The Lowcountry Digital Library documents the history and culture of the region while it supports current research initiatives and cultivates creative content and digital information in appropriate formats across disciplines in support of scholarly inquiry.
Avery Research Center Oral History Collection
The Avery Research Center houses a variety of oral history interviews, largely documenting African American experiences in the Lowcountry. Oral history projects include the Avery Normal Institute documentation effort and the Sea Island Preservation Initiative.
The Avery Sweetgrass Basket Collection
The Avery Sweetgrass Basket Collection holds significant modern examples of a centuries-old craft. Following African traditions, baskets of coiled grasses were originally produced by slaves on Lowcountry plantations for agricultural use. Over time, sweetgrass baskets have become artistic expressions that retain the African aesthetic — a symbol of African American culture and a signature of the Lowcountry region. Alongside the baskets, the Avery Research Center has gathered visual and oral histories of the modern basketmakers and their families.
Carlton Simmons Collection
Carlton Simmons (1959-) began his apprenticeship with uncle Philip Simmons at the age of 13. Today he is less known for utilitarian ironwork, but his decorative and artistic pieces are highly sought-after.
Catherine and James Yatsco Collection
The Catherine and James Yatsco Collection contains artifacts collected in West Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. During 1971-1973, Captain James C. Yatsco was stationed in Monrovia, Liberia, under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he helped manage the pharmacy in a newly-built hospital. Catherine Yatsco taught high school English to a mixture of Liberian children and the children of foreign diplomats at the American Cooperative School in Monrovia. While living in Liberia, the couple often traveled to the northern part of the country and other parts of West Africa. Destinations included Phebe Hospital near Gbarnga, Bong County; Ganta Hospital in Ganta, Nimba County, near the Guinea border; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In 1982, Captain Yatsco spent time in Gambia distributing pharmaceuticals for AfriCare. During this time, he made additional trips to Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia.
Craft and Crum Families, 1780-2007
This collection of artifacts pertaining to the Craft and Crum families of the Lowcountry includes a myriad of materials; photo albums, letters, account books, and land deeds. The Craft Family Photo Album includes images of Craft family members, famous abolitionists, and other family friends, many of international historical significance. Also included in the collection are legal documents pertaining to the family land, Woodville Plantation.
Cleveland L. Sellars Jr. Papers, 1934-2003
The Cleveland L. Sellars, Jr. Papers collection is comprised of papers relating to the Orangeburg Massacre, February 5-8, 1968. Included in the collection is a poem, a collection of Western Union telegrams, press releases, a fact sheet created by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, flyers, photographs, and a resolution from the Student Legislative Council of the University of California at Los Angeles demanding that the perpetrators of the violence that took place at Orangeburg be brought to justice.
Edwin A. Harlston Collection
The Edwin A. Harleston collection contains three original paintings by African American artist and community activist Edwin “Teddy” Harleston (1882-1931) of Charleston, South Carolina. The pieces are representative of the early twentieth-century artists famous portraits and landscapes of the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Edwin A. “Teddy” Harleston (1882-1931) was an African American artist and community activist in Charleston, South Carolina. A graduate of Avery Normal Institute and member of Plymouth Congregational Church, he founded the Charleston chapter of the NAACP in 1917 and served as first president of the organization. His father, Captain Edwin G. Harleston (1854-1931), opened Harleston Funeral Home in 1917, and duo ran this business until their deaths in 1931.
Dr. Elizabeth Clarice Hall Collection
Dr. Elizabeth Clarice Hall (1946-2005) was born in Albany, Georgia. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Ursinus College in 1968, then an M.S. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Florida State University in 1971 and 1973. The artifacts in this collection were assembled from Dr. Hall’s various trips to Africa.
Friendly Moralist Society Papers, 1841-1856
The Friendly Moralist Society was a benevolent society for free brown (mulatto or mixed race) men established in Charleston, S.C. in 1838. This collection contains proceedings of their monthly meetings from 1841 to 1856, and the Absentee Book, showing member absent and for what reason, from 1842 to 1849.
The Proceedings section consists of minutes taken at organizational meetings from 1841 to 1856. These minutes offer insight into the conflict between free black and brown individuals at this time. Monthly minutes of May 1844 and Oct. 1848, for instance, detail the exclusion of prospective members for being black rather than brown and the Annual Day speech of 1848 addresses the issues of being colored versus black or white. This conflict and frequent issues with finances resulted in several schisms and mass resignations in the society and is mentioned in a brief history of the society in the Annual Day address of 1853.
The “Absentees Book” of the Friendly Moralist Society details member attendance from 1842 to 1849. Many of the entries are annotated frequently in pencil, providing explanation for member absences such as “sick”, “out of town”, or “not summoned”, etc. It also notes fines levied for unexcused absences per society rules.
Fulbright-Hayes Trip Collection
In 2008, Curtis J. Franks travelled to West Africa as a participant in the Fulbright-Hays program under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education to explore historical and cultural connections between people of African descent in the Lowcountry and Africans in the Mano River Region (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast), where the artifacts in this collection were acquired.
George Pope Collection
The George Pope collection contains Nigerian artifacts acquired while Mr. Pope, former U.S. State Department employee, was stationed in the country.
Nike Olaniyi [Okundaye] Davies (1951- ) is an internationally known artist and textile designer from Nigeria. She founded and runs the Nike Center for Art and Culture in Oshogbo [Osogbo], Nigeria, which offers art classes to local youth free of charge. Davies’ work has been exhibited in museums internationally and she has received considerable recognition for her efforts in the development of Nigerian art and culture.
Glendia Cooper Collection
Glendia Cooper, African American potter, grew up in Mississsippi and has exhibited her work in various cities across the United States. Her pieces, inspired by travel in Africa and South America, are created using the coil and slab methods, then shaping, molding, decorating and glazing by hand.
H.A. DeCosta Jr. Papers
The Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. Papers include materials related to the professional and personal life of Herbert DeCosta, Jr., his wife Emily, and numerous Craft, Crum, and DeCosta family members. Namely, the walking cane of Dr. William Crum.
Holloway Family Collection
This collection containes a scrapbook, compiled by James H. Holloway (1849-1913), which contains legal documents, personal and business correspondence, receipts, ephemera, clippings and photographs pertaining to the Holloway family, a prominent free family of color in Charleston, SC. Legal documents include deeds (1806, 1821, 1871), a conveyance (1811), slave bills of sale including one for the slave “Betty” (1829), an agreement (1829) to apprentice the slave boy Carlos in the carpenters and house joiner’s trade, exhorter licenses to preach and a photograph of a 1797 document declaring patriarch Richard Holliday (Holloway) a free mulatto. Personal and business correspondence include letters concerning the hiring out of slaves, an offer (1837) to buy the “Holloway Negroes”, a letter (1831) from Samuel Benedict about emigrating to Liberia, agreements for carpentry work, and information about the Brown Fellowship Society, the Century Fellowship Society, the Minors Moralist Society and the Bonneau Literary Society. Also included are invitations, Confederate and corporate tax receipts, receipts for general merchandise, and Confederate scrip. Other letters and newspaper clippings, including letters to the editor written by James H. Holloway, concern Negro taxes, Negro slaveholders, the Liberia movement, the Methodist Episcopal Church, civil rights and related topics. James H. Holloway’s niece, Mae Holloway Purcell, preserved the scrapbook after his death and added to its contents. The bound scrapbook was microfilmed by the South Caroliniana Library in 1977 but was later disbound and reorganized. Using the microfilm as a guide, archivists at the Avery Research Center attempted to recreate the original order and this digital presentation of the scrapbook reflects those efforts.
Isaiah Bennett Papers, ca. 1932-2002
The collection contains, primarily, the correspondence of Isaiah Bennett, President of the Charleston Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Isaiah Bennett (1926-2002) served as a union representative for tobacco workers at the American Tobacco Company’s “Cigar Factory” and as a leader and negotiator of the Charleston Hospital Workers’ Strike of 1969. Bennett also founded and was president of the Charleston chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, an umbrella organization for black trade unions. Topics include Bennett’s campaign for Charleston County Council in 1980, primary and secondary source material on the Charleston Hospital Workers’ Strike of 1969 and includes correspondence between Bennett and other leaders of the strike, news releases regarding the national 1945 Tobacco Workers’ Strike, and correspondence, minutes, and bylaws of the Charleston Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
Johannah Gold Collection
The Johannah Gold collection contains objects from Mrs. Gold’s family relating to the history of farming in the Lowcountry.
Joseph and Rachel Coards Photography Collection
The Coards Studio was a photography studio owned and operated by Joseph and Rachel Coards in Charleston, South Carolina. Coards photographed African American families and individuals in the studio and various events and groups outside of the studio, such as graduations, weddings, and other ceremonies. The studio, located at 78 Line Street, closed in the late 20th century.
Joseph A. Towles Artifact Collection
African American anthropologist Joseph Allen Towles (1937-1988) met British anthropologist Colin Macmillan Turnbull (1924-1994) in 1959. The two exchanged marriage vows in 1960 and they lived together in an interracial, homosexual relationship until Towles’ death in 1988. Towles and Turnbull spent various periods of time in Africa, conducting fieldwork on the Mbuti, Mbo, and Ik peoples. Turnbull authored The Forest People, The Mountain People, The Human Cycle, and Tibet. Turnbull succeeding in publishing Towles’ work posthumously: Nkumbi Initiation and Asa: Myth of Origin of the Blood Brotherhood Among the Mbo of the Ituri Forest. Both Towles and Turnbull died from complications related to AIDS.
The collection contains eight different series of materials that document various aspects of the lives and careers, both separately and together, of Colin Turnbull and Joseph Towles. Anthropological research files focus mostly on their field work on the Mbuti and Mbo pygmies of the Congo area and the Ik of Uganda. Professional papers document their work in academic and museum settings. There are personal papers of their domestic life; fictional writings of Joseph Towles; a professional and personal photograph series; personal and professional films and audio tape, including materials documenting their African fieldwork and association with the camp of Patrick and Anne Putnam; slides documenting African fieldwork and travels; and a series documenting the collection itself. Despite the fact the majority of materials document the life and achievements of Colin Turnbull, this collection, holding both Turnbull’s and Joseph Towles’ papers, is named for Joseph Towles at Turnbull’s request. There is also a separate collection of African, religious, and domestic artifacts collected by them.
Katherine Nicklaus Collection
The Katherine Nicklaus Collection contains two female carved wooden masks whose origin was the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire).
Keith and Charlotte Otterbein Collection
The Keith and Charlotte Otterbein collection contains straw objects obtained while doing ethnographic work in Nassau, Bahamas between 1959 and 1987. Many of the items in this collection were made by individual Bahamian craftswomen (also called “plaiters”) who maintained their independence in the straw industry, while four were sold in the Nassau straw market, thus likely mass produced. The light colored plaits of these objects are made of cabbage palm, and the dark colored plaits are coconut straw.
Leo S. Carty Watercolor Print Collection
The Leo S. Carty Watercolor Print collection contains nine signed and number prints by Leo S. Carty (1931-2010). The primary focus of Carty’s paintings are the daily life of blacks in the Virgin Islands at the turn of the 20th century.
Leo S. Carty (1931-2010) was born in Harlem, New York on April 17, 1931. He became interested in art at a young age and at the age of ten received a scholarship to attend the Museum of Modern Art School for Children. In 1976, he moved to St. Croix, Virgin Islands where he lived until his death. His art often portrays daily life and incorporates history, focusing on the Virgin Islands.
Lois Fries Collection
Donated by Dr. Lois Fries, these artifacts were collected in the early 1920s by Reverend Robert and Jennie Oberly. The Reverend and his wife were missionaries to Liberia for the United Lutheran Church.
Lowcountry Fish and Shrimp Nets
Cast net fishing is a significant part of history in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Africans transported to the Lowcountry, later known as the Gullah people, brought with them skills in boating and fishing. Seafood was plentiful on the South Carolina coast and barrier islands (sea islands) and made up a large part of the diet, just as on the west coast of Africa. The process used for catching fish and shellfish was a cast net. When the net is thrown, the mesh forms a circle, flattening out like a plate. The line is then pulled in, closing the net and trapping everything in it. Usually several people in fishing communities know how to weave and knot the nets; however, it is a skilled art form that has its roots in Africa.
Miriam DeCosta Seabrook and Herbert U. Seabrook Papers
This collection includes correspondence, certificates, photographs, and other materials related to Miriam DeCosta Seabrook’s education at Avery Institute and elsewhere, teaching career, and civic involvement; correspondence, speeches, and reports related to Dr. Herbert Seabrook, Sr.’s community and fraternal affiliations and to his medical career as a private practitioner and director of the Hospital and Training School for Nurses; and correspondence, memorabilia, and financial documents related to the marriage of Miriam and Herbert Seabrook. The collection also contains correspondence, photographs, and other materials related to their son, Dr. Herbert Seabrook, Jr. Amerintha Alston Seabrook, Kenneth Seabrook, and other Seabrook family members are also represented. The collection also contains scrapbooks and photographs of Miriam DeCosta Seabrook’s relatives, the DeCosta family of Charleston, South Carolina.
Septima P. Clark Papers, ca. 1910 – ca. 1990
This collection contains material relating to the life and work of Septima P. Clark. The biographical papers include tributes, clippings, certificates, awards, family correspondence and transcripts of various oral history interviews in which Clark discusses her parents; husband; growing up and race relations in Charleston, South Carolina; her work in Citizenship Schools; her work at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and in the civil rights movement with people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, Dorothy Cotton, Ella Baker, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. There are a few references to the Charleston South Carolina Hospital Worker’s strike in 1969. A series on her works includes a photocopy of her autobiography Echo in My Soul, with related papers; various versions of talks and essays on civil rights, race and racism, non-violence, God and religion, American youth, tributes to individuals and other topics.
Septima Poinsette Clark was born in Charleston, S.C. on 3 May 1898, the daughter of Peter Poinsette, who grew up a slave on the plantation of Joel Roberts Poinsett (with conflicting data saying he came on the ship the Wanderer), and Victoria Anderson who grew up mostly in Haiti. The family lived on Henrietta Street; Clark attended small private schools and Avery Institute, getting a teacher’s certificate in 1916. Laws did not allow blacks to teach in black city schools, so Clark taught for three years in black schools on rural Johns Island. She married Nerie Clark (b. 1889) of North Carolina, a Navy cook, in 1920; they had one child (Nerie, Jr. b. 1925) who survived; Nerie Clark, Sr. died in 1925 when the family was living in Dayton, Ohio. Clark returned to the South, received her B.A. from Benedict College in 1942 and an M.A. from Hampton Institute in 1946. She taught in various schools throughout South Carolina, furthering the cause of civil rights.
In 1956, she was fired from the Charleston school system for being a member of the NAACP. Clark next worked in Monteagle, Tenn., where she taught adult education in an integrated environment at the Highlander Folk Center; much of her work was aimed at practical education, empowering disenfranchised African Americans to register to vote and become active in social issues. In 1957, she staged her model “Citizenship School” on Johns Island, teaching those there how to read and pass voter registration tests. She continued with such schools until Highlander Folk Center had its charter revoked by the state of Tennessee in 1961. The schools were transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Ga., and in her capacity as training supervisor, she helped fuel the growing civil rights movement in the American South, working with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. (accompanying him to Oslo, Norway in 1964 to accept his Nobel Peace Prize), Dorothy Cotton, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. Retiring from SCLC and buying a house on President Street, Clark spent her remaining years active in a number of capacities, on the school board, in church work, involved in numerous feminist, African American and civil rights causes, creating day care centers, trying to get scholarships for students, and never retreating from her dedication to equal rights and opportunities for all. A recipient of honorary doctorates and with a highway, a day care center, and an auditorium bearing her name, she died in Charleston on December 15, 1987 and is buried in the Old Bethel Methodist cemetery.