In what will greatly enhance teaching and research opportunities
in 20th century African American studies, a portion of the Hatch/Billops
Collection in New York—an extraordinary collection assembled
during the past 35 years—has been donated to Emory by collectors
Camille Billops and James Hatch.
The Hatch/Billops Collection, built by artist and filmmaker Billops
and her husband Hatch, a theater historian, will continue its active
program of documentation and acquisition, including development
of the oral history archive and publication of an annual volume
of interviews, “Artist and Influence: The Journal of Black
American Cultural History.”
“Virtually every great research library in the United States
has been built upon the core acquisition of a major private library;
the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch gift is that order of gift
for African American collections at Emory,” said Joan Gotwals,
vice provost and director of libraries.
The donated materials will be known as the Camille Billops and James
V. Hatch Archives. Materials include oral history tapes, scripts
of unpublished plays, posters, photographs and many boxes of books
and periodicals. Included among the several hundred playscripts
received are works by Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, Ossie Davis, Ruby
Dee, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, Willis Richardson,
Wole Soyinka, Melvin Van Peebles, Derek Walcott and Richard Wright.
“Emory received this wonderful gift not only because of the
growing reputation of our collections, but also because of the commitment
we were willing to make: This includes a designated space, a curator
and fellowships for researchers,” said Linda Matthews, director
of Special Collections.
The Billops and Hatch Archives will be a center for scholarly research
in African American arts and letters, according to Randall Burkett,
curator of 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,” Burkett said. “The
archive is a rich resource for students and scholars that significantly
boosts the research offerings in African American studies at several
Atlanta institutions. This sort of material will attract students
and researchers from across the country.”
An archive of this nature is significant not just on its own merits,
Burkett said, but in its ability to attract additional collections.
One example already is the acquisition of approximately 25 boxes
of the Delilah Jackson Archives. Jackson has been a rescuer of papers,
photographs and memorabilia of New York performers of all kinds,
including dancers, singers, musicians and theater folk.
The Hatch/Billops collection was born of necessity, according to
one of the collectors. “[It] originated in 1968 when Camille
and I were teaching art and literature respectively at the City
College of New York,” Hatch said. “With the rise of
the civil rights movement and a concomitant increase in racial consciousness,
a demand rose for courses in black American art, drama and literature.
We found that very little had been published on the history of the
African American cultural arts, and much that had been published
was out of print. We began collecting primary materials for our
students, and soon, artists, writers and theater folk were sending
material to us for safekeeping.”
With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Hatch
and Billops began to conduct oral histories with artists in all
disciplines—art, cinema, dance, drama, literature, music—and
on related educational and political topics. Billops began photographing
the works of black artists in exhibitions and private collections.
To complement this project, which now numbers nearly 10,000 slides,
she and her husband assembled a library of books, periodicals and
clippings. Hatch began to collect published and unpublished plays,
set designs, theater programs, and historical and biographical works,
and today the collection is one of the most comprehensive to be