“Through the long, hot summer and the long cold winter, Delta Ministry looks ahead: to a total ministry, to growing self-respect and self-determination among delta Negroes, to a bold new start for some.” So begins the text of a wonderful brochure (found in the SHC’s Delta Health Center Records) that tells the story of the Delta Ministry.
The Delta Ministry was a project begun in 1964 by the New York-based National Council of Churches to provide support to African Americans in the Mississippi Delta region. The project not only sought to bring economic aid to black Mississippians but also encouraged voter registration and greater political involvement. According to Mark Newman’s 2004 book, Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi, the Delta Ministry began with a 10-year mandate but ended up stretching its support for the citizens of the Delta into the 1980s. This, according to Newman, filled the vacuum created as other civil rights organizations, such as SNCC and CORE, discontinued similar programs of support for poor blacks in the Mississippi Delta.
The group has a fascinating story, much more deftly told by Newman’s extensively-researched book than I could do in this space. The organization’s history deserves greater attention, it deserves even more ink from historians writing on the legacy of the American Civil Rights Movement. As an intro, we hope you’ll read and enjoy this Delta Ministry brochure. Click on each thumbnail to see a larger version of the image. Finally, if you’re interested in digging deeper, there are other great materials in Box 59 of the SHC’s Delta Health Center Records.
[Each month we feature a "creator" or one of the SHC's manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection's production, accumulation, or formation.]
The North Carolina Fund, an independent, non-profit, charitable corporation, sought and dispensed funds to fight poverty in North Carolina, 1963-1968. Governor Terry Sanford and other North Carolinians convinced the Ford Foundation to grant $7 million initial funding for a statewide anti- poverty effort aimed at rural and urban communities. This money–plus additional funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation; the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation; the U.S. Dept. of Labor; U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare; U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development; and the Office of Economic Opportunity–enabled the Fund to support a broad program of education, community action, manpower development, research and planning, and other efforts to fight poverty.
The Southern Historical Collection is proud to be the repository that preserves a giant collection (some 187,000 items) of the Funds records. To read more about the North Carolina Fund and to learn about the collection of North Carolina Fund papers preserved in the Southern Historical Collection, please view the finding aid for the North Carolina Fund Records, 1962-1971.
Finally, we thought we’d note that a great deal of attention has been paid lately to the work of the North Carolina Fund and its volunteers. Rightfully so! In 2008, filmmaker Rebecca Cerese created the documentary “Change Comes Knocking: The Story of the NC Fund” to tell the history and legacy of the Fund. It’s a really great film. In fact, we’ll be hosting an event featuring Rebecca Cerese in the fall – check back soon for full details.
We also understand that a book is soon to be published by UNC Press on the history of the Fund. The publishing of this book has been an integral part of a new UNC Press digital publishing venture called “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement.” You can read all about the new book and learn more about the project here.
These collections are ones that have had their finding aids recently revised.
Coker, William (#3220)
William Chambers Coker was a botanist, teacher, writer, who taught at the University of North Carolina, 1902-1945, serving as chair of the Department of Botany and editor of the journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society.
The collection includes correspondence and other personal and professional records of William Chambers Coker, chiefly 1914-1950. Coker’s papers concern family and personal business matters; his research, writing, and international correspondence as a botanist; his activities at the University of North Carolina as a professor and as chair of the Botany Department for 36 years; the journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, of which he was editor, 1904-1945; and numerous civic interests. Also included are Coker’s notebooks titled “Plants of Chapel Hill”; files of Alma Holland of the Botany Department as editor of the yearbook of the Garden Club of North Carolina, 1940-1941; files of the Highlands Museum and Biological Laboratory, 1930-1950; and files of the Division of Design and Improvement of School Grounds, University of North Carolina Extension Bureau. Also included are Coker’s research notes on his studies of mycology; notes and drawings on various fungi; photographs, field notes, and drawings of plants; blueprints related to what became the Coker Arboretum at the University of North Carolina; and correspondence with Coker’s family and friends.
The collection consists of correspondence, writings, subject files, administrative records, and other materials that document Dabbs’s professional involvements and interests, including his leadership roles in civil rights councils, religious organizations, and other groups. Almost all of the papers date from 1923 to shortly before Dabbs’s death in 1970. Topics include observations on social and political issues of the day (especially in the American South), concerns about racial inequalities and segregation, Dabbs’s opposition to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and Dabbs’s own life and religious beliefs. Most writings are drafts are of books, articles, addresses, short stories, poems, and other writings by Dabbs, and most correspondence is between Dabbs and fellow political and religious group members, publishers, and readers of his articles and books. There is light and scattered correspondence with prominent authors, activists, and historians, including Anne Braden, Sarah Patton Boyle, Hodding Carter, Isabel Fiske Conant, Paul Green, Myles Horton, George Mitchell, Eudora Welty, and C. Vann Woodward, among others; some writings by others; and a few photographs of Dabbs’s university and church colleagues.
Delta Health Center (#4613)
The Delta Health Center was established in the mid-1960s, in the rural, all-African American town of Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Miss., and served Bolivar, Coahoma, Sunflower, and Washington counties, where poverty was widespread. The Center, which was federally funded through Tufts University and later through the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was one of the first community health centers in the United States. The comprehensive community health center model aimed at building upon traditional health services by addressing the underlying causes of illness, including economic, environmental, and social factors. Originally, Jack Geiger served as project director and John Hatch as director of community health action.
The collection contains business files documenting the establishment and operations of the Delta Health Center, including the efforts of John Hatch, Jack Geiger, and others to obtain and maintain federal funding for the Center from the Office of Economic Opportunity; the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and the Department of Health and Human Services. Major topics include health care for minorities and impoverished communities, social medicine, nutrition, environmental health, and medical education and training. Materials document the economic, social, and health conditions of the residents of the Mississippi Delta, especially the African American community in northern Bolivar County; John Hatch and L. C. Dorsey’s efforts with the North Bolivar County Cooperative Farm and Cannery; the role of the North Bolivar County Health and Civic Improvement Council; and the Delta Health Center’s relationship with other health facilities, medical schools, and outreach programs, including the Mound Bayou Community Hospital (with which it merged in 1972), Meharry Medical College, the Delta Ministry, and the Columbia Point Health Center (now the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center), and others. Included are administrative records, correspondence, financial materials, grant proposals, legal materials, personnel files, reports, studies, education and training materials, publicity materials, photographs, printed matter, and other items. Of note are newspaper articles, protest photographs, and other items related to Mississippi Governor Bill Waller’s vetos of the Delta Community Health Center and Hospital’s federal funding, and photographs of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches in March 1965. Audio recordings include speeches of and interviews with persons connected with the Delta Health Center, among them director Andrew James. Also included is a recording of Stokeley Carmichael speaking at North Carolina Central University in March 1970 and a recording of a 1968 speech by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Delta Ministry’s Mount Beulah Conference Center in Edwards, Miss.
Jones, Charles Miles (#5168)
Charles Miles Jones, Christian minister and social justice activist, spent the majority of his ecclesiastical career in Chapel Hill, N.C., at the head of the Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church and then as the first minister of the Community Church.
The collection includes correspondence, church documents and publications, clippings, and other items reflecting Jones’s ministry and concern for civil rights. Materials generally focus on his public rather than personal life with a special emphasis on the 1952-1953 investigation of his Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church ministry. General correspondence includes letters from supporters (among them Frank Porter Graham) and detractors, commenting on the investigation, Jones’s sermons, and several well-publicized actions in support of social justice causes. Also included is official correspondence of the investigation and formal documentation of the proceedings, as well as scattered church newsletters, copies of a 1945 petition to remove Jones and the elders’ rejection of it, and other items. The Community Church period is chiefly represented by financial and administrative materials, while Jones’s activist role is reflected in pamphlets, official correspondence, and Fellowship of Southern Churchmen documents. Among the materials on Jones’s activism are several items relating to his involvement in the 1947 “Journey of Reconciliation” (or “Freedom Ride”), including “We Challenged JIM CROW!” a pamphlet by George House and Bayard Rustin; a handwritten account of Jones’s involvement; photocopies of court transcripts; and notes. Other papers consist mainly of clippings, honors accorded Jones, memorials upon his death, and materials relating to the published biography of him written by grandson Mark Pryor.
Ehle, John (#4555)
John Marsden Ehle Jr., author of novels and works of non-fiction, was born in Asheville, N.C., and has lived most of his adult life in Winston-Salem. He served as special assistant to North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, 1963-1964, and has been instrumental in establishing and furthering many significant educational, desegregation, and anti-poverty projects. He is married to British actress Rosemary Harris.
The collection documents both the literary career and public service activities of John Ehle. Literary materials include correspondence, clippings, and financial items relating to Ehle’s novels and other works, as well as notes, drafts, and galleys. Family items include correspondence of Ehle’s parents and a few items relating to Rosemary Harris. Other materials relate to Ehle’s work with various public and private institutions. These include files generated in the course of Ehle’s work in the Governor’s Office, especially his efforts on behalf of the North Carolina School of the Arts and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. There are also files relating to the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Federation for the Arts and Humanities, Duke University, and the Penland School of Crafts. Photographs and audiovisual materials include family photographs and photographs used as book illustrations, including some of activists protesting segregation in Chapel Hill, N.C., that were taken for use in The Free Men (1965); audiodiscs of radio shows that Ehle wrote or acted in; tapes of interviews done for various books; and filmstrips, chiefly on North Carolina history, which Ehle produced, sometimes in collaboration with others. A few items relate to Rosemary Harris.
This video also contains a montage of images, primarily taken from the holdings of the Southern Historical Collection. The SHC contains scattered documentation about the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation and about the life and work of Reverend Charles M. Jones, including (but not limited to):
Southern Oral History Program (finding aid for collection #4007): Including these digitized interviews B-0010; A-0035; B-0041; and others not yet digitized.
We are very proud to be the repository for these important primary source materials documenting this often-forgotten episode of Southern history. However, we can’t help but notice that there are many missing pieces in the archival record that might tell the rest of the story. Could it be that there really is only one photograph of the 1947 freedom riders? What about documentation of the cab drivers and others who opposed the riders? We still have our work cut out for us.
[Today we feature the life and work of Reverend James A. Felton of Hertford County, North Carolina. The Southern Historical Collection is proud to be the repository that preserves a small collection of papers from the Felton family (the James A. and Annie V. Felton Papers, Collection #5161, finding aid). The following biographical note comes from the finding aid for the Felton Papers.]
1960: Rev. James Felton
Platoon 349 of the 92nd Company; Sgt. Felton (Company Commander) front row, second from left
Circa 1980: “Rev. James Felton poses with Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Training Center students who have completed their skills training and are ready for jobs”
James Andrew Felton was born on 6 July 1919 in Hertford, Perquimans County, N.C. After spending almost three years in the United States Marine Corps, he earned his B.S. from Elizabeth City State Teachers College (now Elizabeth City State University) and his M.A. from North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University). He taught in the Greene and Hertford County school systems for 20 years, and, in 1965 he published “Fruits of Enduring Faith,” a story that dramatizes the human issues behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In the mid-1960s, Felton and Reverend John L. Scott of New Ahoskie Baptist Church formed the People’s Program on Poverty, an African American organization created to study and fight poverty on the grass-roots level. Through his work in this program, Felton founded the first Family Training Center in the United States. During this time, he was also actively involved in organizations such as the President’s Commission on Rural Poverty, the North Carolina Family Life Council, and a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In 1980, Felton established the C. S. Brown School Auditorium Restoration Association to restore Brown Hall, a building that had been part of the campus of Chowan Academy, an African American school founded in 1886 by Calvin Scott Brown. The C. S. Brown Regional Cultural Arts Center and Museum in Winton, N.C., opened in 1986.
James A. Felton married Annie Vaughan on 3 August 1947. They had six children: James Andrew, Jr., Keith, Maria, Sharon, Michele, and Camilla. James A. Felton died in Winton, N.C., on 6 October 1994.
[To learn more about the contents of the SHC's Felton Papers collection, please see the finding aid].