African American Family Documentation Initiative

Documenting Family History


Wylie Family Papers, #5082-z

From generation to generation, we pass along stories, letters, photo albums, mementos, journals. Our family histories give our lives meaning. Our family histories also tell the story of North Carolina.

The Southern Historical Collection (SHC) in UNC’s Wilson Library invites you to participate in the African-American Family Documentation Initiative. Help us tell all our stories.

Advised by community members and UNC faculty members, SHC staff seek to acquire and make available for research a wide range of archival materials (letters, journals, photographs and the like) to document the experiences of black North Carolinians and their families.

SHC archivists invite individuals and families to consider the SHC as a repository for family and business records. In addition to working with area community members, SHC staff are consulting with African-American history faculty members, independent scholars and librarians at universities in the area, particularly at the historically black colleges and universities.


Looking to the Future


Lewis Family Papers, #5499


Through this Initiative, the SHC commits to working with the community to preserve family and business records. Archivists will help donors assess materials, safely box and move them, and, with permission, make the materials available to researchers through digitization, exhibits and programs.

There are a number of rich collections already in the Southern Historical Collection that relate to the African American families and communities, such as the papers of:


  • J.D. Lewis, broadcaster and Raleigh community leader, and the Lewis Family
  • Hubert Samuel Robinson, Chapel Hill civic and political leader
  • the Pope Family, prominent in Raleigh in politics and the community from the early 1900s throughout the 20th century
  • Floyd McKissick, attorney, businessman, and civil rights leader
  • The McLean-Stinson-Grigsby Family


There are countless unique stories to tell and remarkable voices waiting to be heard. Together we can preserve the rich history of North Carolina.


How to Help


Please join us in launching the African-American Family Documentation Initiative. Here are ways to help:


· Place family records in the archive for preservation and research.

· Tell others (friends, family, churches, local organizations) about the Initiative.

· Raise awareness of the importance of collecting and preserving our history by hosting events and meetings.

· Make a donation.


In addition to acquiring and preserving family papers and business records, the Initiative invites your financial support.

Donations of any size will be gratefully received for this project. Your support will help:

  • Preserve and digitize materials.
  • Offer community workshops, events, and exhibits.
  • Provide online access to collections.
  • Retain expert staff and hire graduate assistants to work with the archival collections.
  • Acquire new collections.
  • Create outreach and public education programs.

For more information about the Initiative and how to contribute please contact Holly Smith, African American Materials Specialist,  at 919-962-1345 or

For information on making a financial donation, please contact Emily Silverman, Assoc. Director of Library Development, at

2 thoughts on “African American Family Documentation Initiative”

  1. I have genealogical information on Henderson (John: Pittsboro), Paris, MacMillan (John : Fayetteville), Donaldson (Robert ), of Chatham and Cumberland Counties. The dates range from c.1640 to 1916.

    I also have names of their slaves, with anecdotes about them.

    Am looking for descendants of Margaret and Robert Burton in Fayetteville, and Henderson slaves in Pittsboro.

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African American Documentary Resources in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC Chapel Hill