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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

John Egerton papers

Repository: Vanderbilt University. Special Collections and University Archives

Collection Description (Extant): The John Egerton Papers, 1950s-2001, include correspondence, manuscripts of writings, speeches, research materials, publication materials, publicity for books, reviews, legal and financial documents, memorabilia, clippings and photographs, programs from cultural events, scrapbooks and periodicals on race relations and school desegregation, and audio and video tapes. The ninety boxes of this collection cover approximately 38 linear feet. Major topics include civil rights, desegregation, race relations, Southern history, and Southern food. The collection is arranged in chronological order, beginning with Egerton's early writings in the army and in public relations while in graduate school at the University of Kentucky and continuing through his extensive work as a free-lance writer and author of many books. These papers offer a fascinating insight into the career of a non-fiction writer in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Approximately thirty-two boxes of the collection contain materials relating to Egerton's work as a writer for periodicals and as a participant in many conferences and projects concerned with civil rights and desegregation. These materials include the manuscripts and the extensive research for his articles on subjects such as civil rights, labor relations, education reform and equality of opportunity, Southern history, and Southern food. Especially important are the manuscripts and materials for the major articles he wrote for American Heritage and The New York Times Magazine. These boxes also contain correspondence related to the articles, highlights being letters from James Earl Ray, John Popham, Claude Pepper, Alex Haley, and Will Campbell.

The most extensive part of the collection is the material for Egerton's books. Included are the manuscripts, research materials, correspondence, photographs, and publicity materials for "A Mind to Stay Here," "The Americanization of Dixie," "Visions of Utopia," "Nashville: The Faces of Two Centuries," "Side Orders," "Unfinished Business," and "Shades of Gray." There is also a copy of the manuscript for Nashville: An American Self-Portrait, but the materials related to this book are deposited with the Metro Nashville Archives.

Perhaps the most significant part of the collection is the material related to his books "Generations," "Southern Food," and "Speak Now Against the Day." The nine boxes containing Generations are comprised of manuscripts, including the Japanese edition, and extensive research materials. There are taped interviews as well as the transcripts of the tapes, much publicity material, many photographs, most taken by Egerton, and voluminous correspondence, especially with the Ledford family. The materials for "Southern Food" are in six boxes and contains multiple copies of the manuscript, research materials, correspondence, photographs, and publicity materials. The seventeen boxes of materials for "Speak Now Against the Day" include the tapes and tape transcripts constituting part of the research for the book and contributed to the University of North Carolina's Southern Oral History Project. Additional tapes contain interviews with Robert Penn Warren, Gene Graham, and Studs Terkel. There are copies of the manuscript and eight boxes of extensive research materials and correspondence, including letters from Wilma Dykeman, John Popham, C. Vann Woodward, Alexander Heard, and John Hope Franklin. Two boxes contain photographs, photostats, and photocopies of footage from March of Time newsreels.

Subject Files contain many issues of Integrated Education: Race and Schools, Report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Inequality in Education. There are also scrapbooks of newspaper clippings pertaining to education issues in 1950-1951, especially in California.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): 1950s-2001

Digital Status: No

Extent: 90 boxes (approximately 38 linear feet)

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Gene Graham, Robert Penn Warren, John Popham, Studs Terkel, C. Vann Woodward, John Hope Franklin, Richard Pride, G. C. Jernstedt, Ruth Jacobs, Charles Morgan, James Earl Ray

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African Americans--Education
African Americans--Social conditions
Civil rights movements--Press coverage
Civil rights movements--Southern States
Labor movement
School integration
Southern States


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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