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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

Esther J. Walls papers

Repository: University of Iowa Libraries. Iowa Women's Archives

Collection Description (CRHP): The collection includes the transcript of a dissertation research interview with Walls conducted by Miriam Braverman, fall 1972. Also included are an undated radio program transcript, "Speaking Volumes," and an October 1986 videotaped interview with Walls.

Collection Description (Extant): The Esther J. Walls papers are arranged in five series: Biographical material, Correspondence, Writings, Photographs, and Scrapbooks. The bulk of this collection documents Walls's educational and professional activities from 1944 to 1996.

The Biographical material series (1946-1996 and undated) includes [. . . ] material that reflects Walls's participation in International House, a New York-based organization devoted to promoting peace, an open exchange of ideas, and international understanding. Additional material in this series includes journal and newsletter articles in which Walls was featured, transcripts of two interviews with Walls, and a videotaped interview with Walls.

The Correspondence series (1949-1991 and undated) contains greeting cards, correspondence, invitations, and programs. Walls received some of the greeting cards from acquaintances who were affiliated with the United Nations. The correspondence includes letters received by Walls in connection with her student life and with her professional career. Of particular note are two letters written to Walls by Des Moines attorney S. Joe Brown in 1949. In one letter, Brown, a State University of Iowa alumnus who was the first African American man to be elected to the Alpha of Iowa chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, congratulates Walls on becoming the first African-American woman to attain the honor. The correspondence relating to the Franklin Book Programs consists of letters and schedules associated with Walls's trips, primarily to Africa, to promote literacy. The series also includes correspondence, arranged chronologically, from authors such as Chinua Achebe and Phyllis A. Whitney, bandleader Lawrence Welk, and television broadcaster Hugh Downs. Invitations to and programs from various events held both in the United States and in various African countries are also included in this series.

Featured in the Writings series (1944-1980 and undated) are essays written by Walls when she was a student, her published articles, professional reports, and speeches. The student essays include biographies of two African-American women whom Walls knew while growing up in Mason City. Elderly at the time that Walls wrote the essays during the 1940s, each woman had direct ties to slavery. In a course paper dating from the same period, Walls describes having been a young African-American woman reared in a predominantly white city. Topics examined in the professional reports include public libraries, youth literacy, vocational education, African literacy and libraries, book procurement, and African-American history. In her speeches, Walls addressed such subjects as the role of African-American women in society and in librarianship.

The Photographs series (1860s-1994) include photographs and color photocopies of photographs. They feature members of Walls's family, including a color photocopied image of ancestors who were homesteaders in Kansas that dates approximately from the 1860s. Walls's grandparents and parents are also featured in photocopies of photographs that date from approximately the 1890s and early 1900s. The series also consists of images of Walls as a college student, as a librarian, and as a promoter of literacy around the world. Included among these photographs are images of Walls and the other women who integrated Currier Hall at the State University of Iowa in 1946 and images of Walls with nationally and internationally known authors, photographers, and performing artists.

The Scrapbooks series (1971-1972) includes two volumes documenting the International Book Year 1972, during which Walls served as director of the U.S. Secretariat. Pamphlets, flyers, and articles describe the efforts to promote International Book Year, particularly Walls's participation.

Access Copy Note: The papers are open for research.

Date(s): 1860s-1996

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: V180

Extent: 1.75 linear feet and 1 videocassette (VHS, 23 mins.)

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: At the University of Iowa: Virginia Harper papers (Harper was one of the women who integrated Currier Hall dormitory with Esther Walls at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa).

Interviewees: Esther J. Walls

Rights (Extant): Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.


African American librarians
African Americans--Iowa
College integration
University of Iowa




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   September 26, 2018
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