New promotion for Spreading the Word!


We are happy to announce further promotion of the Spreading the Word collections, this time through the Atlanta Studies blog. Atlanta Studies is out of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, who publishes a multimedia, web-based journal, articles, blog posts, book reviews, and videos that point to research and scholarship that helps tell the story of the city. This blog will reach the Word project out to a variety of scholars throughout the city, state and country that  will be interested in the rich ties these collections have to the city of Atlanta. Read the post here – enjoy!


We have a new online exhibit on the history of the Interdenominational Theological Seminary!


We have been working on a new exhibit for you and are happy to say it’s live! This exhibit is a part of an ever-growing group of digital exhibits to explore from the Robert W. Woodruff Library. Featuring the history of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), the exhibit brings to life the story of the school and how it came to be, featuring images digitized from the Spreading the Word project. The ITC is a Christian Afrocentric ecumenical consortium of seminaries, currently composed of Gammon Theological Seminary, Morehouse School of Religion, Turner Theological Seminary, Phillips School of Theology, and the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary. Take some time to navigate through this story and treat yourself to a little Atlanta and HBCU history! Find the exhibit here.

New Small (but Mighty!) Collections Available from the Spreading the Word Project

Hi everyone- today we are happy to introduce you to three new small audiovisual collections available from the Spreading the Word project here at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library!

Levi and Jewell Terrill (right, center), circa 1960.

We have written in a previous blog post about the Levi and Jewell Terrill collection. This couple were longtime workers of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia (GMBCGA) and the National Baptist Convention USA. These three recordings that accompany this collection contain a GMBCGA meeting and two church meetings. They feature guest speakers, departmental reports, testifying, singing, and call and response between the leader and the congregation- great content that compliments many of the other church collections in the project, no matter what the denomination.


Portrait of Bishop P. Randolph Shy, circa 1950

The smallest collection is just one tape, a microcassette to be exact, from the collection with the longest name, the Atlanta-Rome District Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Collection. This cassette features an interview with church worker Reverend L. W. Jay. In the interview he talks of his appointments within the church beginning in the 1950s. He recalls his movement to different churches within the district and the culture of the congregations within. Don’t forget to check out the photographs that compliment this collection- you can find both the recording and the photographs here.


Portrait of James H. Costen, circa 1990.

And last but not least are 10 recordings from the James H. Costen Collection. Dr. Costen was the fifth president of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). He was a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, where he was awarded his Bachelors and Divinity Degrees. After serving pastorates in Rocky Mount, NC, and Atlanta, GA, Costen stepped to the forefront of a national movement to prevent the closure of the Johnson C. Smith Seminary when it was threatened with closure because of declining enrollment and financial problems. The seminary survived, but was moved to Atlanta and made part of ITC, where Costen would serve as the Dean. In 1983, Costen was elected president of ITC, a position he held until his retirement in 1998. Under his leadership, ITC’s enrollment grew from 175 students to about 400, and its annual budget shot up from about $1.7 million to almost $6 million. Also during Costen’s tenure, a series of capital improvements (including an endowed education center) were made. The recordings in this collection are of Dr. Costen interviewing predominant members of the Presbyterian Church around the area of the former location of Johnson C. Smith Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they talk about the state of the church and Black Presbyterianism. An interview of interest here is Dr. Costen interviewing another Presbyterian clergy that is part of the Spreading the Word collections, Reverend Hercules Wilson! Wilson was an early graduate of Biddle University and is in his mid-90s at the time of the interview.

Dr. Costen’s collection is currently being processed, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy these recordings and the many pictures of him that you can find throughout the Spreading the Word collections. Hint: enter “Costen” in the search box in the upper left side of your screen when you are on the project’s landing page. Looking forward to telling you about more collections soon!

New Year, New Society for the Study of Black Religion Recordings!

Happy New Year to you all! The AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library is pleased to announce the availability of additional audio material from The Society for the Study of Black Religion collection. This organization was founded in 1970 with the goal of promoting the scholarly teaching of the African American religious experience, and we are happy to make these recordings available as a part of the Spreading the Word project!

In these newly released materials, listeners will hear Dr. Cain H. Felder (noted Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Biblical Criticism at Howard University Divinity School), deliver a lecture on the Bible and its use in the African American church, highlighting the role of the Negro spirituals. Professor James S. Tinney, (Journalism Professor at Howard University and a leading authority on the Black press and Black Pentecostalism, and founder of Faith Temple Church), is recorded delivering a lecture on ecumenism, and inclusivity within the Black church.  Dr. Lawrence E. Carter, Dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College is also a part of these new recordings. He is recorded delivering a lecture on the cross and non-violence at the Interdenominational Theological Center- another collection including audio  and photographs, which is another part of the Spreading the World Project!

boykin sanders
Dr. Boykin Sanders delivers a presentation, 1979.

Several other notable scholars can also be heard, including Charles Shelby Rooks (the Society’s first president), Lawrence Jones (former Dean of Howard Divinity School), C. Eric Lincoln (Black Church scholar, author, and poet), Noel Erskine (Black theology and ethics author and Professor), Boykin Sanders, Cornel West, Charles Long and James Cone. These scholars discuss a myriad of theological issues related to the spiritual and social life of the African American church and community. We are again pleased to have the collection as a part of the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library’s Spreading the Word project. We hope you will visit the collection soon!

More recordings available from the Howard J. Dell collection

Bishop J. Howard Dell, circa 1990.

If you’ve followed the Spreading the Word blog from the beginning, we’ve been talking about J. Howard Dell for a while now. It took some time to first process the papers, then to label and send out over 600 audio and video recordings for digitization, and then to listen and tag each recording with keywords so they can be searchable. So we got our gospel on for a while, and are now happy to announce that all of the recordings are complete and ready for your listening and viewing pleasure. Some of the newly released recordings highlight Dell’s autobiographical recounts of how he joined the COGIC church through C. H. Mason, and evidence of his enthusiastic congregation during his regular teleministry, “God Speaks.” Different guest speakers and preachers are highlighted, including his son, Nathan Dell, as well as Chandler Owens, Adrian Williams, and Henry Louis Ford. You will even find a recording of Ja’net Dubois, Willona from the TV sitcom Good Times, delivering a message from the pulpit. Check them all out on the AUC Woodruff Library’s Digital Commons!

Introducing the Robert E. Penn Collection

Two well-dressed men on the streets of Welch, West Virginia, circa 1942

Hey everyone, we are happy to introduce a newly processed collection now available for your research! Robert Earl Penn was an American Baptist minister, later in life working for the Interdenominational Theological Center. This collection will be especially of interest to researchers interested in ministry work and civil rights in America.  Penn was born in 1916 in Keystone, West Virginia, a historically African American rural coal mining town in the southwest part of the state. Baptized as a teenager at the Saint James Baptist Church in Welch, West Virginia, he participated in youth work at the local church. In early life he was a construction worker and coal miner. You can see many pictures of Penn’s family and friends from this area in the collection photographs and is interesting to see how people dressed up to go to town back in the day!

Robert E. Penn an Army fatigues, unknown location, circa 1943

Penn attended Kimball High School in McDowell County, West Virginia from 1931-1934. He received a football scholarship and attended Morristown Junior College in Tennessee from 1934-1936, earning an Associate of Arts in sociology. He then went on to earn an Bachelor of Arts in social science from Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1936, a Bachelor of Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary in 1941, and a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Theology from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas. He served as a chaplain in World War 2, and his concern of equal treatment of African Americans in the Army is evident in correspondence and speeches he delivered arguing against sub-standard conditions he and his colleagues were treated to.

In his other pastoral work, he served in Kansas City, Kansas, and Gary, Indiana. He was a prominent pastor in Gary, working with the Indiana Council of Churches, Fellowship of Gary Ministers, and was on the Board of Trustees with the Gary Public Schools in Gary, Indiana. Additionally, he was Vice President of the Indiana Pastors Conference in Greencastle, Indiana, was on the Board of Managers of the Indiana Baptists in Indianapolis, Indiana, and served as moderator of the Northwestern Association of the American Baptist Churches, USA.

Robert E. Penn with an unidentified church worker at the First Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana, circa 1958

He became active in missionary efforts in Africa and traveled to Nigeria in 1966. His pastoral specialties were teaching, counseling, administration, evangelism, social ministry, and public speaking. Beyond his work as a minister, Penn also volunteered as a camp counselor, and served as the Instruction Head at the Century Club Boy Scout Association. Penn returned to Atlanta to become Director of Field Education at the Interdenominational Theological Center in 1973.

Atlanta-Rome District CME Church collection photographs now available

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Hi everyone, we are happy to share another newly available digital collection with you! A little history on this collection: the Methodist Episcopal Church South was an outgrowth of Methodism, but some African-Americans that were converted to Christianity by slave masters desired to have and control their own church. This desire led these members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South to start their own independent religious organization, which was The Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. It was later renamed the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in 1956. The Atlanta-Rome District consists of 34 churches in Atlanta and surrounding areas – the collection contains church programs and histories, minutes from national and district annual conferences, and photographs. These photographs range from the 1940s through the 1980s, and are now available on Digital Commons. The images depict members of the congregation at events in and out of church, as well as education and family life, even some cats! Hope y’all enjoy!

Vintage Kitty! circa 1955

Now available: Photographs from the James P. Brawley Collection

 Portrait of James P. Brawley, circa 1955

If you are on any of the Atlanta University Center campuses, you will probably know his name because a prominent promenade bearing his name runs right through the AUC (and right in front of the AUC Woodruff Library)! That’s right, it’s Dr. James P. Brawley, President of Clark College from 1941 to 1965. Photographs from the James P. Brawley Collection have been digitized, and are available in our Digital Commons.  The photographs feature events from the life of Brawley, scenes around Clark College, and images used in his teachings. Born in Lockhart, Texas in 1895, his vast education includes Samuel Huston College, University of Southern California, and Northwestern University, culminating in receiving his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Chicago. During his scholarship, he taught at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi before moving to Atlanta for a job as head of the Department of Education and Religious Education at Clark College. There, he moved up the ladder to succeed Dr. M. S. Davage as President.

 James P. Brawley at UNCF banquet. Written on verso: Taken at the UNCF Banquet during the UNCF tribute to Dr. Brawley. L to R: Clarence Cooper, Ronald Jackson, Dr. Brawley, and Carl Ware, October 1984

As President of Clark College, Brawley oversaw the moving of the College to its current location near the other institutions of the Atlanta University Center. During his tenure as President, Brawley became a founding member of the United Negro College Fund, created a fundraising culture on campus, and saw several new buildings added to the campus. A few images in the collection are from a fundraiser featuring David W. Williams, an American attorney and judge. Williams was the first African-American federal judge west of the Mississippi, and known for overseeing 4,000 criminal cases that stemmed from the 1965 Watts riots. Also of note in the Collection are lantern slides of religious clergy, historical events and campus life, which Brawley most likely used in his classes. The images show his interest in Methodism and civil rights, reflecting current events of the time and his background in religious education.


A breakfast honoring California Judge David W. Williams. Left to Right: City Attorney Henry C. Bowden, Dr. James P. Brawley, Judge David W. Williams, and Dr. Benjamin Mays. circa 1974

In 1965, Brawley resigned and began his tenure as President Emeritus, serving as a fundraiser for the College. He also wrote the history of Clark College titled The Clark College Legacy: an Interpretive history of Relevant Education 1869-1975. The Clark College history was the second book written by Dr. Brawley, the first was titled Two Centuries of Methodist Concern: Bondage, Freedom and Education of Black People.

 Students stand in an entryway at Clark College, circa 1960

Outside of his work with Clark College, Brawley was an active member of the Methodist Church. He served on the President’s Council of the Methodist Board of Education as well as several boards, commissions and committees related to social action and concerns. Be sure to check out these historic images and we will be back soon with more collections! If you are interested in researching the papers of James P. Brawley, you can view the finding aid for more information. The Archives Research Center holds his history!



The Levi and Jewell Terrill collection is now available!

Hi everyone- time to introduce you to the Levi and Jewell Terrill collection. This couple has deep ties to Georgia and the history of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia (GMBCGA) and the National Baptist Convention USA (NBCUSA).

Levi and Jewell Terrill (left) in London, circa 1955 

Levi Maurice Terrill was born in Missouri on September 18, 1899. He came to Atlanta, Georgia in 1922 to enter Morehouse College, and practiced pharmacy at the old Gate City Drug Store in Atlanta to help with college expenses. He was ordained into the ministry in Athens, Georgia at the First Baptist Church, and preached around the area until he was called in 1943 to Zion Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia, staying there until his death in 1971. Aside from the active pastorate, he served as Vice President of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia for twenty years and as President from 1959 until his death. He was also the first Director of the Morehouse School of Religion for several years, and Professor of Baptist History and Polity at the Interdenominational Theological Center from 1953 to 1962. In 1969, Terrill was elected Vice President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. – a promotion from assistant secretary which was a position he held for many years.

Jewell Evelyn Middlebrooks was born March 4, 1907 in Griffin, Georgia and also baptized at an early age. She was a Normal student at Atlanta University where she graduated with a certificate; she then attended Savannah State College for one year. She married Levi Terrill in 1929, and had three children together. For twelve years she was the First Lady of the 500,000-member General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, Inc. and established a strong record of service at a variety of Baptist organizations.

State Convention at Thankful, Augusta, 1929
The dining hall at Central City College in Macon, Georgia, circa 1910

Some interesting items in this collection relate to the organizations with which the Terrills were associated, documenting the various programs and associations of the GMBCGA. A bulk of the collection materials document the work of the GMBCGA and its previous presidents and directors, including C.C. Crawford, S. S. Broadnax, James H. Gadson, and D. A. Arnold. These materials contain a large amount of programs, reports and minutes of the numerous boards, auxiliaries, and associations associated with the GMBCGA. Of note in these materials are reports, land deeds, and correspondence relating to the creation and subsequent turmoil over the closing of Central City College in Macon, Georgia. This school was founded in October 1889 by the Reverend E. K. Love under the auspices of the Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia. It served as a co-educational institution of learning for African American students at high school and college levels. It was renamed Georgia Baptist College in 1938, but beset by financial woes, the school closed in 1956.

Dining Hall, Central City College, Macon, GA
The dining hall at Central City College in Macon, Georgia, circa 1910

The photographs within this collection document trips taken by the Reverend and Mrs. Terrill – notably one to London – as well as other images of buildings and people from the GMBCGA.  They are currently available through Digital Commons. You can find more information about the Terrills and the GMBCGA through the finding aid here. A few audio recordings found in the collection will soon be available, so be sure to check back on Digital Commons to see what’s new!

Spreading the Word about Spreading the Word!

Last week Andrea Jackson, Jessica Leming, and Christine Wiseman had the honor of talking about the grant and its progress to members of the HBCU Library Alliance. The fourteen collections were presented, along with the how the grant came to fruition, and how other institutions can investigate developing grant applications of their own. Want to hear more? Check out the recording here!

A screen shot of the presentation
A screen shot of the presentation