AALC Collecting Update | Presbyterian Historical Society

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AALC Collecting Update

February 21, 2024

We bring you peace and blessings this Black History Month! Your archivists are excited to share the progress we've made in documenting the Black Presbyterian experience, and we thank you for supporting the African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative.

With your support, we made site visits to appraise and pack up records for storage and for digitization. Thanks to the following congregations for joining the program: Salt and Light (Philadelphia, Pa.), New River Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia, Pa.), and to three churches in Queens–-the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans, Hollis Presbyterian Church, and First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica.

We also took oral histories at the National Black Presbyterian Caucus, and preserved the memorial service of Melva Costen.

Left: Rev. Edler Hawkins, undated. Right: Commonplace book, 1940s-1960s.

In 2023, we added 29 new African American collections amounting to more than 25 cubic feet and 26 gigabytes of data. These included the commonplace books of Edler Hawkins--texts that he carried whenever the time required a prayer or a song. Hawkins extensively used Langston Hughes’s poetry, and carried "The Internationale" with him. We were pleased to bring in the personal papers of Marsha Snulligan Haney, minister, mission worker, and theologian; the elder and social worker Gladys Turner Finney; and the minister and Black Caucus organizer Maxine Jenkins. Our thanks go out to them all.

Our digitization team imaged more than 10,000 pages of records for nine Black Presbyterian churches, among them Christ Presbyterian Church (Milwaukee, Wis.), Davie Street Presbyterian Church (Raleigh, N.C.), and Edisto Presbyterian Church (Edisto island, S.C.). We continue to appeal to congregations to join our work, and get free digitization of your session minutes and registers.

Finally, because you can’t understand the PC(USA) without listening to Black voices, We encourage everyone to listen to two oral histories that bookend the year: our January interview with stated clerk J. Herbert Nelson II, and our December interview with Rev. Cedric Portis of Third Presbyterian Church (St. Louis, Mo.).

Interview of J. Herbert Nelson II, taken 13 January 2023, on his time at Liberation Community Church (Memphis, Tenn.) [islandora:309059].

Thanks once again to our participants, our supporters, and to our friends preparing to join us! We look forward to doing even greater work in 2024.