African American Collections of Note at the Tennessee State Library and Archives

Dr. Harry Mustard Photograph Album

Research Guides and Bibliographies at the Tennessee State Library and Archives


Tennessee State Library and Archives Exhibits


Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA) Collections

  • Beautiful Jim Key - This collection focuses on Beautiful Jim Key, an Arabian Hambletonian horse, owned by Dr. William Key, a self-trained, African-American veterinarian and former slave).
  • Dr. Harry S. Mustard Photograph Album, 1924-1928 - This collection focuses on 1920s black and white views of rural schools and children of Rutherford County.
  • Early 20th Century Schoolhouses - Photographs from education records with an emphasis on Rosenwald schools and so-called “White” and “Colored” schools in the same community.
  • Fisk University Scrapbook: School Memories, William Henry Fort, Jr. (1911-1974) - The Library and Archives has chosen to display portions of this scrapbook in order to highlight the contributions of Fisk University, especially the historically significant role that the university played during a time of great social upheaval in the South.
  • Miers River Photograph Collection - This collection focuses on photographs from the 1920s of steamboats, river-related work, and African Americans on the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers.
  • Reconstruction and the African-American Legacy in Tennessee - The ten years after the Civil War, known as Reconstruction, affected virtually every aspect of Southern life and brought many new rights to freed black men.  Educational and political opportunities blossomed but not without serious consequences.  This collection examines those struggles and victories.
  • Throwaway History: The Broadside in American Culture - Broadsides are the legitimate representatives of the most ephemeral literature, the least likely to escape destruction, and yet they are the most vivid exhibitions of the manners, arts, and daily life, of communities and nations.  The broadsides in this collection offer a striking look into the beliefs, philosophies and actions of the individuals and communities that shaped America. There are several broadsides pertaining to Civil Rights and a WVOL broadside from the 1950s.  (WVOL was the African American radio station credited with launching Oprah's career.  This broadside was featured on a Channel 5 program on African American history.)


Tennessee State Library and Archives Manuscript Collections of Note

  • John Houston Bills diaries, 1843-1871 (Mf. 1) - Bills was a businessman and planter who lived near Bolivar, Tennessee. These papers record family news, farm records, life during the Civil War and Reconstruction, relations with slaves and freedmen, and trips to northern and southern cities.
  • McGavock-Hayes Family Papers, Addition, 1796-2000 (Mf. 1677) - These papers chronicle the experiences of two wealthy, prominent Tennessee families who resided at Midway, their estate in Williamson County, Tennessee.
  • Merl Raymond Eppse papers, 1927-1961 (Mf. 1214) - These are the papers of Merl Raymond Eppse (1893-1967), African-American educator, historian, and businessman. A major portion of the collection is Eppse’s correspondence in his capacity as director of Greenwood Cemetery in Nashville and as leader of the Disciples of Christ Church, one of the churches that laid the foundation for the civil rights movement. He was also one of the directors of the National Educational Publishing Company, an early black publishing company located in Nashville.
  • Nannie Seawell Boyd Collection of Papers Relating to Montgomery Bell, 1853-1939Bell had numerous slaves who worked his iron furnaces throughout Middle Tennessee. In 1853 and 1854, Bell sent about 100 of his slaves to Liberia, Africa, provisioning them for six months, and in case he arranged for some of them to obtain ore land in Liberia to set up a furnace.
  • Washington Family Papers, 1796-1962 (Mf. 961 and Mf. 1266)These papers are centered around “Wessington” the Washington home built in 1819 by Joseph Washington, a tobacco planter in Robertson County near Cedar Hill, Tennessee.


Tennessee State Library and Archives Photograph Database

  • Photograph and Image Search - The Tennessee State Library and Archives Photograph Database, accessible under the "Digital Collections" tab on the Library and Archives web site, contains thousands of images of Tennessee people, places, and events.  Entering the search term "African Americans" into the Keyword Search box calls up 400 images.  Other interesting searches are "education"; "children" and "families"; "health"; "houses," "dwellings,"and "cabins"; "farms," "farming," and "agriculture"; and "servants."