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

The Interdenominational Theological Center Photograph Collection is now available!

Researchers:  get ready to travel to the Interdenominational Theological Center’s (ITC) past through pictures! Student and faculty events, programs, and campus life are all captured in the ITC’s Photograph Collection, now digitized and available on Digital Commons. A part of our Spreading the Word project, this collection contains over 1,200 images from the 1880s through the 1970s. These images recount the history of the ITC and associated denominational schools and its seminaries:

Students play badminton outside of Bowen Hall, circa 1950
  • Gammon (United Methodist Church)
  • Morehouse School of Religion (Baptist)
  • Mason (Church of God in Christ)
  • Phillips (Christian Methodist Episcopal)
  • Turner (African Methodist Episcopal)

Researchers can tour the old Gammon Theological Seminary campus through the images of Bowen Hall, Gammon Hall, Gilbert Haven Memorial Library, Thirkield Hall and the Gammon presidential residence where Dr. Harry V. Richardson lived.

Dr. Harry V. Richardson at his desk, circa 1959

Richardson was a primary figure in establishing the ITC and became the Center’s first president. The collection contains multiple images taken during Richardson’s tenure at Gammon and ITC. Through these images, researchers can follow Richardson and his wife Selma to dinners, board meetings, classrooms, and rural America to get a sense of his life and responsibilities.

Along with Dr. Harry V. Richardson are images of other past ITC presidents including Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, Dr. Grant S. Shockley, Dr. J. Deotis Roberts and Dr. James H. Costen. You will also find photographs of prominent past chairmen of ITC’s Board of Trustees such as Dr. Ernest Cadman Cowell (first chairman), Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. Richardson credits Dr. Mays’ “tenacity” with helping to make the vision of ITC a reality.

itc first faculty
First Faculty of the ITC, circa 1964
Morehouse College reunion featuring Drs. Benjamin Mays, Levi Terrill, and Martin Luther King, Jr., circa 1957

Dr. Mays moved the Morehouse School of Religion – then located on the campus of Morehouse College – to become a part of ITC. Photographs of Morehouse School of Religion director, Dr. Levi Terrill and his wife, Jewel Terrill, can be found in the collection. Dr. Terrill, in one image, is seen standing beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Mays in front of a Morehouse College banner. Dr. Terrill was the long time pastor of the Zion Hill Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA, and prominent within the Georgia Missionary Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc. (the Levi and Jewell Terrill Collection is also a part of the Spreading the Word project.) The Turner School of Theology director, Dr. J.R. Coan, can also be seen in photographs giving lectures to students, along with other ITC instructors. ITC Professors Dr. Gayraud Wilmore, Dr. Charles B. Copher, and Dr. Isaac R. Clark are also shown giving lectures, participating in faculty meetings and program and events.

Finally, there are a host of photographs taken of students participating in campus life. Whether inside their housing units, the ITC dining hall, on the lawn, or in the classroom, researchers will get a glimpse into the life of the student, particularly in the 1940s through the 1970s. Images of students studying in the ITC library, singing in the chapel choir and participating in picnics are all a part of the exhaustive collection of photographs. We hope you will soon explore this photograph collection that illuminates the rich history of the Interdenominational Theological Center. For further information on the ITC, take a look at the finding aid as well as the audio recordings created at the ITC. Until the next time, happy researching!

NEH interviews the Spreading the Word project team!

The National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access recently highlighted the work of the Spreading the Word project on their featured projects page. Check out the interview to learn more details about the current work and the collections!

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Highlighting the work of Isaac Clark

Dr. Isaac R. Clark recording his lecture to students, circa 1960. Photo from the ITC Audio Visual collection, available at:

Isaac Rufus Clark believed preaching was essential to the African American experience. This systematic theology and homiletics master with a colorful personality taught 28 years at the Interdenominational Theological Center on the substance and methods of preaching.  We here at the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library Archives are pleased to highlight the Isaac R. Clark Memorial Collection.

Clark was the son of Reverend and Mrs. James H. Clark of New Castle, Pennsylvania. His wife, Dr. Betty Clark, was also of New Castle. From 1943 to 1946, he served in the United States Navy during World War II, and soon after being honorably discharged, he attended Wilberforce University where he received a Bachelor of Arts. Clark also received a Bachelor of Divinity from Payne Theological Seminary and later received his Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University. Read his and his wife’s biographical sketches found in the manuscript collection.

Dr. Isaac R. Clark (center), Dr. Harry V. Richardson (second from left), and students outside of the ITC classroom building. Matriculation Day, October 9th, 1962. Photo from the ITC Audio Visual collection, available at:

Within this collection you will find manuscripts produced by Dr. Clark during his time as Homiletics Professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center, including his class syllabi and lecture outlines. Quotes from the lecture outlines reveal the rich personality of Dr. Clark. When mentioning fresh ITC seminary graduates eager to display their new knowledge he states, “They’re often puking undigested knowledge on folks rather than creatively using their internalized knowledge.”

A 1/4 inch audio tape format used widely in the mid 20th century. This is the original format of the Clark audio materials prior to digitization.

Researchers may receive other glimpses of his personality when listening to the accompanying audio recordings that are also a part of the collection and can be accessed through the Atlanta University Center Digital Commons platform. While listening to the audio, patrons are sure to hear the colorful language and examples Dr. Clark used during his homiletics class sessions. Listeners will often hear Dr. Clark refer students to the preaching manual he authored. This fifty eight page manual titled “Principles for Preparing and Delivering Sermons” is located within the collection and emphasizes the essential elements of preaching. The proposition (as an essential element) is emphasized by Dr. Clark’s statement “If you ain’t got ‘no proposition,’ then you ain’t got ‘no sermon!” His personality and teaching style comes out in recordings such as: “Theological Definition of Preaching“and “Basic Christian Communication.

The Isaac R. Clark Memorial Collection contains not only materials relating to preaching; other materials, including writings by Dr. Clark, his students, and faculty of Interdenominational Theological Center such as Dr. Charles B. Copher, are also found within the holdings. Printed materials inside the collection include “Trends in Theology” by Professor L. Berkhof, The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and other African Methodist Episcopal Church material. Interdenominational Theological Center chapel service programs – including the twenty fifth silver anniversary charter day celebration – also document events at the institution. We are pleased to preserve and make accessible this rich collection at the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library Archives Research Center.  Until our next Spreading the Word project update we hope you will check out this collection! Access the finding aid for the manuscript collection, listen to the audio recordings of Isaac Clark, his students and other lecturers, and enjoy this dynamic professor’s work.

The 2016 C. Eric Lincoln Lecture Series video is now available

Dr. Rev. Pamela Lightsey delivering the 34th annual C. Eric Lincoln Lecture

Missed the widely renowned lecture series this year? Well look no further, the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library’s Digital Commons has it online for you. This year’s lecture featured Dr. Rev. Pamela Lightsey, an Assistant Professor of Contextual Theology and Practice and Associate Dean for Community Life and Lifelong Learning at Boston University, and a scholar, social justice activist and veteran.

In this 34th annual C. Eric Lincoln Lecture, Dr. Lightsey presents her lecture titled, “Root Workers in an Incessant Social Media Democracy”. She ruminates on racial identity from the vantage point of a theologian, shaped within the context of the Black radical tradition, critiquing the systems of racism and discrimination. It is a fascinating lecture that focuses on relevant contemporary issues such as the Black  Lives Matter movement and police violence. You can find the lecture here.  Check it out!