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Research Roundup

Introduction

The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University houses a diverse body of primary sources illuminating the African American experience.  From literature and history to politics and popular culture, these collections include:

  • the papers of writers such as Alice Walker, John Oliver Killens, and Pearl Cleage
  • the collections of visual artists such as John Biggers, Samella Lewis, and James Porter
  • and the records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Atlanta Daily World. 

The biographical profiles represented here are just a glimpse of the stories present in the Rose Library. Find more information on our African-American History & Culture collections.

Collections

Hank Aaron (1934-)

On April 8, 1974, Atlanta Braves star player Henry “Hank” Aaron hit his 715th home run, which broke the long-standing record held by Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth.  While a majority of baseball fans celebrated Aaron’s accomplishment, others expressed resentment and hatred that an African American had replaced one of organized baseball’s long-time heroes in the record books.  As a result, Aaron received more than one million hate-filled letters from across the United States, each challenging his humanity and his right to citizenship in the United States. Yet, Aaron’s success on the baseball field, similar to Jackie Robinson’s who had integrated the professional baseball in 1947, proved that when given the opportunity African Americans could not only play the game but achieve greatness. 

Benny Andrews (1933-2007)

Born in Plainview, Georgia in 1930, Benny Andrews received a scholarship to attend Fort Valley State College.  In 1950, he joined the Air Force and as a result had access to the GI Bill, which allowed him to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, where he honed his skills as a visual artist.  After moving to New York to pursue a career as a professional artist, Andrews found himself in the middle of the protest to increase the number of opportunities for African American artists to show their work in New York museums and galleries.  As one of the founders of the Black Emergency Culture Coalition, Andrews led the charge to change the policies that denied the participation of a diverse group of artists, whose aesthetic practices differed from those set by the art world.

Camille Billops (1933-2019)

As an artist, filmmaker, and educator Camille Billops had an extensive exhibition, teaching, and academic career. She was a faculty member at Rutgers University, City College of New York, and for the United States Information Service in India. In 1968, Billops became the art editor of Indiana State University's Black American Literature Forum. With the rise of the civil rights movement and an increase in racial consciousness, a demand rose for courses in black American art, drama and literature. To satisfy the research needs of her students, Billops and her husband, James V. Hatch, created the Hatch-Billops archives to preserve the history of African American cultural arts, black print culture, and black theater. 

Alice Coachman (1923-2014)

In 1948, Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field.  Born in Albany, Georgia, Coachman demonstrated her athletic prowess early as a high school AAU track and field champion.  At the Tuskegee Institute, she dominated as a student-athlete, winning national championships in the 50-meter dash, the 100-meter dash, the 400-meter relay, and the high jump. She also played on the Tuskegee women's basketball team, which won three championships. During the 1940s, Coachman stood out as the most talented track and field athlete.  In 1952, she became the first African American woman athlete to receive an endorsement contract from Coca Cola, making her an internationally recognizable star.

Barbara Chase Riboud (1939-)

With degrees in fine arts from Temple University and Yale University, visual artist, sculptor, and writer, Barbara Chase Riboud studied in Rome in the 1950s on a John Hay Whitney Fellowship.  Eventually, she moved to Paris, where she became fascinated with the life of Sally Hemings, who traveled to the “City of Lights” in 1787 as the property of Thomas Jefferson. In 1979, Chase-Riboud published her research on Hemings as a novel.  This work of fiction was the first to depict the romantic relationship between an enslaved Hemings and Jefferson as consensual.  The controversial fictionalized representation of the won the 1980 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Excellence in Fiction by an American Woman.  Most importantly, in the four decades since the book was published, historians have proven Chase-Riboud’s research to be not only accurate but groundbreaking.

Regenia Perry, Ph.D. (1941-)

Regenia Alfreda Perry, African American art historian, was born in 1941 in Virginia. In 1961, she received a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), and went to Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, Ohio, where she received a Ph.D. in Art History in 1966. Perry is the first African American woman to hold doctorates in art history and American art.

George Theophilus Walker (1922-2018)

The African American graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, George T. Walker became one of the most important classical musicians, composers, and teachers of the twentieth century.  In 1945, Dr. Walker became the first African American pianist to play a recital at New York's Town Hall.  Nearly fifty years later, in 1996, Walker became the first African American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music for his song cycle Lilacs.