Tag Archives: wyatt walker

Welcome Back, and the Papers of Theresa Ann Walker

Hello, and welcome back to Something Uncommon! I hope everybody had a nice Winter Break (and you weren’t too disappointed that we took some time off from the blog?). This week we’re back, and introducing our newest #WyattWalkerWednesday blog post! This week, we’re actually focusing on Mrs. Theresa Ann Walker, wife to Dr. Walker and activist in her own right.

One of the amazing things about the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection is the inclusion of some of Mrs. Walker’s material. While perhaps not as well known as her husband, Mrs. Walker was nonetheless heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in several major protests. In fact, Mrs. Walker was arrested as one of the Freedom Riders during a demonstration in Jackson, Mississippi in 1961.

Some of the material Mrs. Walker included in this collection relates directly to her time in the Jackson, MS jail. Included in that material is the tin cup that Mrs. Walker was given for the five days she was held. Mrs. Walker was also able to remember the layout of the cells she was held in, including the other Freedom Riders held with her and the placement of their cots. Mrs. Walker was kind enough to donate a copy of all her notes, including the layout of the cells and a detailed timeline of her imprisonment.

Handwritten notes detailing Mrs. Walker’s time in jail

Mrs. Walker was held from June 21 until June 26. Rev. Walker was also arrested and held in Jackson, along with 15 other Freedom Riders. This was a continuation of a larger demonstration by the Freedom Riders that began in May of 1961. For more information on the Freedom Riders and their part in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, you can always check out Boatwright’s online catalog or the appropriate Wikipedia pages.

For more information concerning the Walker Collection and my progress processing it, please keep an eye on this space! And as always, check out Boatwright’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for even more glimpses behind the scenes while we prep the collection for use.

Processing Dr. Walker’s Correspondence and Personal Papers

One of the types of materials that many archival collections have in common is correspondence. This can also be one of the most interesting things to process, depending on how prolific the donor’s friends were and what they talk about. In the case of Rev. Walker and his wife, their correspondence is incredible to work with.

For instance, take the manuscript of a play hand typed by Langston Hughes that was sent to the Walkers. This is a real piece of history, from one major 20th century figure to another. Hughes, if you are unfamiliar, is a very well known poet — you can find more on him on Wikipedia and elsewhere (or here). What makes this 1963 manuscript, entitled Jerico Jim Crow Jerico, particularly interesting is how Hughes uses black gospel music as a main pillar within the work, and the connection that creates with Rev. Walker’s own work. (If you will recall, Rev. Walker is an eminent expert on the black gospel musical tradition, with several published works on the topic.) While I have not uncovered further details of any relationship between Hughes and Rev. Walker, it might prove to be a strong topic for further research.

The Langston Hughes manuscript is hardly the only correspondence of interest in the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection. Other items of particular note include several cards from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, including a holiday card from Coretta dated 1970, two years after his assassination. There is correspondence from other major figures, including a dinner invitation for Desmond Tutu.

Rev. Walker is well known both for his anti-apartheid work in South Africa and his expertise on the black gospel tradition. Another, perhaps lesser known aspect of the man was his interest and skill in photography. This is highlighted in another item within Rev. Walker’s donated personal papers, a guestbook from an art exhibition of his photography in 1977 entitled “African Journal.” This helps provide a link between Walker and the community of which he was a part from a different perspective than his more well-known aspects. Luckily for us, the collection also includes plenty of slides to help showcase this different side.

There are a lot more interesting pieces I’ve found in the correspondence and personal papers, and some of them will be posted on the library’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds — make sure to check those out! I’ll also keep updating the blog on a weekly basis as I continue preparing the collection for public use and research, so keep an eye on this space for next week’s post.

Introduction to the New Archivist

staff photo of Taylor McNeilly

Staff photo of Taylor McNeilly

Hi all! I’m Taylor McNeilly, and I’m the new Processing & Reference Archivist here at the Rare Books and Special Collections division of Boatwright Memorial Library. I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little about myself and the work I will be doing here at RBSC.

I’m a New England native, having grown up in Rhode Island (the littlest state with the biggest name!), and went through my undergraduate career in western Massachusetts. I originally was a linguist by training, specializing primarily in Japanese with some minors/various levels of learning in Russian, French, and a handful of other languages. After graduating, I moved to Japan and taught English before deciding my heart resided in libraries and archives more than teaching. (I am still conversationally fluent in Japanese, however — and ASL, too!)

After returning to the US, I studied and worked at Simmons College in Boston, going through a full-time dual degree program to earn both an MLIS with an archives management concentration and a MA in History at the same time. I also worked as a professor’s assistant and, later, as the archives assistant at the college. I was also actively volunteering or interning in various archives throughout my time at Simmons, meaning that I have over 4 years of experience in my field despite only having my degrees for about half that time.

After leaving Simmons, I worked at the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston. There, I was the project manager for two separate, simultaneous, grant-funded digitization projects while also performing a variety of other responsibilities, including running the institution’s ArchivesSpace implementation and helping to develop a three-year strategic plan for the archives.

Many of these responsibilities are carrying over to my work here at RBSC, but my main priority starting out is going to be processing the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection. You may have seen some info about the Walker Collection before now, but I’ll give you a quick refresher now.

The Rev. Dr. Wyatt T. Walker is a prominent Civil Rights figure, renowned minister, prolific author, and international expert on gospel music, the Black religious experience, and non-violent protest. Walker was also the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s chief of staff for the years 1960-1964, as well as the first full-time executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, president of a local NAACP chapter, state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and special assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Walker was also the minister at the historic Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA before becoming active in the Civil Rights Movement, and afterwards was the minister at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, NY for nearly 40 years.

RBSC acquired the Walker Collection in 2015, although that is a bit of an oversimplification. The Walker Collection’s material has been donated in various stages, with some material coming from NY while some comes from Dr. Walker’s current home in VA. Donated material has continued to come in, even as recently as earlier this month. As such, work on arranging and describing the material has had to wait until most (if not all) of the material was available.

Since we now have the majority of the material, and now that I’m here, processing of the Walker Collection can move forward! It will be closed to researchers until I can finish working on the collection as a whole, but I will be sharing the process of arrangement and description here as part of a new weekly blog series. I’ll also be posting interesting items I uncover during processing on the Boatwright Memorial Library’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds, so be sure to follow all our social media accounts to keep updated on what cool stuff I find!

If you have any questions about the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection or RBSC in general, leave them in the comments below! And otherwise, I’ll see you next week for another progress update on the Walker Collection.

Civil rights leader donates permanent collection to Boatwright Library

Wyatt Tee Walker, a distinguished theologian and civil rights leader, has gifted his personal collection to the University of Richmond Boatwright Memorial Library. The collection includes hundreds of historical pieces, including papers, recorded sermons and memorabilia.

Walker, who lives in Virginia, served as chief of staff to Martin Luther King Jr., executive director of the Southern Leadership Conference and special assistant for Urban Affairs to Nelson Rockefeller. He is a specialist in sacred music, cultural historian and prolific author. Walker is pastor emeritus of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

Significant items in this historical collection include photographs Walker took of King while they were jailed in Birmingham in 1967; numerous letters to King and others regarding civil rights issues; and journals, drawings, diagrams and notes kept by Walker’s wife Theresa, who was also active in the civil rights movement. The collection also includes books, records, awards and clothing.

“We are justly proud that we were on the right side of history and can share our experiences with the general public through this partnership with the University of Richmond,” said Walker.

“We are honored that Dr. Walker has entrusted Boatwright Memorial Library with the care of this amazing collection,” said Lynda Kachurek, head of rare books and special collections. “We expect civil rights and other historians from all over the country and world to be interested in this scholarship, as well as our faculty, staff, students and the general public.”

This special collection will be the largest under the care of Boatwright Library. It will be housed in the Galvin Rare Books Room. The collection will be catalogued and processed and is expected to be available for research beginning in late 2016.

“This collection documents a critical moment in American history,” said University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher. “It will help generations of students and scholars better understand the men and women who led the Civil Rights Movement and their work for social justice. We are so grateful for Dr. Walker’s generosity and for the opportunity to bring this collection to the University library.”

 

Link to original press release