Fri. 07/22/2022 – 08:08 | From: David Tisdale

The important work of providing access to historical material in the Special Collections Division of University Libraries at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is getting a boost with grant support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The NHPRC’s mission is to promote the preservation and use of the country’s documentary heritage essential to understanding the nation’s democracy, history and culture.

The grant – $135,828 from NHPRC, with $70,178 in-kind matching funds from USM to increase access to collections – support the processing, digitization, and development of finding aids for existing collections significant to Mississippi history and culture. Some documents will be digitized and presented in online presentations.

The collections selected for the grant include the following:

Raylawni branch collection: Branch is a Hattiesburg native and civil rights activist who, along with Gwendolyn Armstrong Chamberlain, joined USM in the 1960s as its first African-American students.

Emilye Crosby Civil Rights Collection: Dr. Crosby was coordinator of SUNY’s Black Studies/Africana program from 2002-18 and won the McLemore Prize for her first book, A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Fight in Claiborne County, Mississippi.

Mary Ann Wells Collection: Wells, worked at American Hattiesburg newspaper from 1977 to 1981 as an award-winning photojournalist, feature writer and weekly columnist.

Papers of Henry Lee Rodgers: Rodgers served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Mississippi from 1960 to 1976. Previously, from 1946 to 1950, he served as a district attorney for the 5th District Judicial Court and earlier in private practice. Before becoming a judge, he was a circuit judge. The collection documents this era in the state’s judicial history

Harvey Edward West collection: West served as chief of staff to Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson (1964-1968), whose administration oversaw a period of economic and industrial growth, as well as heightened racial tensions, in the state.

O’Keefe Family Archives: Archives document the family’s prominent role in the political, business, and philanthropic spheres of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Papers of Sheila Michaels, 1963-1999: Michaels was a civil rights and feminist activist who joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1961 and the following year worked for CORE and SNCC in Jackson where she also worked very briefly for the Mississippi Free Press. During Freedom’s summer of 1964, she served as project manager for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) Hattiesburg Project.

Sue Sojourner Collection, 1974-2014: Sojourner was a prominent Mississippi civil rights activist, first in Holmes County, then later making history helping to organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), whose delegation challenged and quit the Democratic National Convention and is credited with bringing about the Voters Rights Act of 1965. After leaving the state in 1969, she moved with her husband Henry to Washington, D.C., adopting the surname “Sojourner” and is involved in women’s and lesbian liberation movements.

Tasha Tudor collection: An acclaimed author and illustrator, Tudor began her career illustrating children’s books in 1938, writing and illustrating fairy tales, nursery rhymes and stories. In addition to numerous other prizes and distinctions, two of his works, Mother hen and 1 is awere named Caldecott Honor Books.

Documents of Tana Hoban, 1938-2006: Hoban began his career in advertising and magazine illustration. Daughter of Russian immigrants, she was one of the first in her field to photograph people of different ethnicities. In 1950 her work was included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and in 1953 she was the only woman mentioned in a Time magazine portfolio on “Half a Century of American Photography”. In 1959, she was named one of the top ten female photographers by the Professional Photographers of America.

George Edward Stanley Collection, 1984-2010: Stanley has written over 100 books for children and young adults, including his critically acclaimed book Rats in the attic and night lights. Stanley wrote his first books “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys” using pseudonyms. An ongoing contributor to Grummond’s collection of children’s literature, most of his collection was added to the holdings after his death in 2011.

The Special Collections offer a variety of historical resources ranging from 15th-century illuminated manuscripts to Civil War letters, civil rights documents, and present-day Mississippiana. It is made up of four units: University Archives; Rare Books and Mississippiana; Historical manuscripts; and the Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

University Libraries Associate Professor Lorraine A. Stuart, who is Head of Special Collections/Curator of Manuscripts and Historical Archives, will lead the two-year grant project, which in addition to increasing access to the collections will provide multiple opportunities for hands-on materials preservation and presentation experiences for USM Library and Information and Humanities graduate students.

“This project will help make them (students) very marketable in our field, because by the time they have completed their academic program, they will have done the work of curating collections, developing online research aids for materials and creating online exhibits,” says Stuart.

For more information on University Libraries and Special Collections, visit