Emory Libraries

Preserving Culture: Book Lovers Invest in the Libraries

New York artist Camille Billops and her husband and collaborator, James Hatch, (pictured above) are donating to Emory their extensive collection of materials documenting African American life and culture. Assembled over more than four decades, the collection will go to Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) through an estate gift.

The couple’s donation—along with gifts, pledges, and gifts in kind from Emory friends and alumni worldwide—has helped Emory Libraries generate more than $11 million in private funding during Campaign Emory. Fund-raising for the libraries continues as people who value literature and culture invest in Emory’s collections, programs, and facilities.

“There is so much unspoken that you receive when you reach out for books. We must be stewards of the heritage of books. We must hold on to books and to reading. We must fight to keep them in the culture and in the hands of students,” says poet and writer Margaret Hodgson Ellis Langford, a member of MARBL’s advisory board who served on the Emory Libraries campaign committee.

Campaign Emory gifts to Emory Libraries include a $695,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a collaborative digital humanities center. The grant provided start-up funds for the Digital Scholarship Commons in the Robert W. Woodruff Library.

Among their many gifts to the university as part of Campaign Emory, Bill 79PhD and Carol Fox have established a $100,000 bequest for MARBL. An active alumnus, Fox has been an Emory administrator, teacher, student mentor, and fund-raiser, serving as Dean of Campus Life for more than a decade and leading the university’s Office of Institutional Advancement during a funding campaign in the 1990s. In 2006, Emory honored the couple by naming the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and in 2007 Fox received the Emory Medal, the university’s highest honor for alumni.

Bill Newton 75C 76G and Anne Newton 76G are investing in a graduate fellowship at MARBL during the campaign. The Coca-Cola Foundation is matching the couple’s contribution. Both Newtons have Emory graduate degrees in library science, and Bill Newton represents the libraries on the Emory Alumni Board. “I understand the research value of primary sources,” he says about the decision to support the library. “I appreciate the book as an object, a work of art. And it’s important to give back.”

The gifts from Billops, a sculptor and documentarian, and Hatch, a professor emeritus of English and theater at City University of New York, further strengthen Emory’s significant holdings in 20th century African American studies. With rare books, photographs, recordings, art catalogs, and several hundred play scripts including works by Zora Neale Hurston and August Wilson, the Billops-Hatch archive is an unmatched resource for teaching and research, says Randall Burkett, curator of MARBL’s African American collections.

"This is, to my knowledge, the most important archive of African American arts and letters of the 20th century in private hands,” says Randall Burkett, curator of African American collections for the university.

Burkett and his wife, retired librarian Nancy Burkett, also have contributed rare materials to MARBL’s African American holdings. Among the books, broadsides, pamphlets, funeral fans, photographs, and other materials the Burketts have donated are the papers of William H. Scott, who fled slavery in Virginia at age twelve and became an aide-de-camp to a Union Army officer, serving until the war’s end. Scott went on to be a teacher, minister, and political activist—one of the 29 founding members of the Niagara Movement, which was the predecessor of the NAACP. Scott’s grandson, on his deathbed, gave the papers to Burkett to ensure that his grandfather’s story would be preserved.

Hazel Biggers of Houston has entrusted Emory with the papers of her late husband, African American artist John Biggers. The collection documents his career as an artist and scholar. Most famous for his public murals, Biggers established the art department at Texas Southern University.

Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio and his wife, Louise, have endowed a MARBL research fellowship that will focus on the work and life of writer Alice Walker, and art historian Amalia K. Amaki 92G 94PhD has helped Emory acquire the papers of the late Paul R. Jones, a renowned art collector and civil rights activist.

The libraries will continue to build key research collections, develop new collection areas, encourage investment in research fellowships and curator positions, and generate funding for a new facility to house MARBL’s rare and unique materials. Among the subject areas targeted for expansion is the library’s collection of materials documenting LGBT history, culture, politics, and public health in the South. Toward that end, longtime AIDS activist Jesse Peel, a retired Atlanta psychiatrist, has donated his journals, appointment books, subject files, correspondence, photographs, and more than 80 reel-to-reel audiotapes recorded during his tour of duty in Vietnam.

By donating the papers of the late William Clyde “Doc” Partin Sr. 50C 51G, Partin’s family has inspired library curators to begin building a major collection exploring the role of African Americans in sports and the role of athletics in the struggle for civil rights. A beloved member of the Emory community, Partin served in the university's physical education department for more than half a century as a teacher, coach, athletics director, author, and baseball game announcer.

To learn how you can support Emory Libraries, contact Alex Wan at alex.wan@emory.edu or 404.727.5386.


Emory Libraries Volunteer Campaign Chair: John F. Morgan 67OX 69B