Scope and arrangement
The Lester A. Walton Papers date from 1905 to 1977. The papers provide information on his diversified careers in the entertainment field, journalism, as the American ambassador to Liberia from 1935 to 1946, as a commissioner for the New York City Commission on Human Rights from 1956 to 1964, and on various political activities in which he was engaged. Aspects of his personal and family life are represented in the papers as well.
The collection is divided into seven series and seven subseries. The titles and dates are as follows:
The Lester Walton papers are arranged in seven series:
The ENTERTAINMENT CAREERseries, 1905-1963, contains music and lyrics for songs written by Walton and a small amount of correspondence pertaining to his years as manager of Harlem's Lafayette Theater. There is also correspondence and printed matter from the Negro Actors Guild of America, in addition to stories, poems and music written by individuals other than Walton, some of whom are not identified.
The Coordinating Council for Negro Performerssubseries, 1951-1955, Consists of correspondence Walton wrote as chairman of this organization. The purpose of this Council was to promote African American performers in all aspects of the theatrical profession.
The NEWSPAPER CAREERseries, 1913-1965, contains a small amount of correspondence with the New York Age,the New York Amsterdam News,and staff members representing other newspapers. Contained in this series is correspondence regarding capitalizing “N” in the word “Negro,” and a membership roster and printed material from the Society of the Silurians.
The Newspaper Guild of New Yorksubseries, 1957-1961, regards the grievance between the Newspaper Guild of New York and the New York Amsterdam News,for which Walton served as arbitrator. The grievance issue involved the failure of Powell Savory Corporation, publishers of the New York Amsterdam News,to pay wages for eight employees as stated in collective bargaining regulations.
The AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVE TO LIBERIAseries, 1930-1965, consists principally of material generated during Walton's tenure as ambassador, 1935-1946, particularly correspondence, Walton's personal financial papers, invitations to a variety of official and other events, and official addresses Walton delivered. Correspondents include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Liberian presidents Edwin Barclay and William V. S. Tubman, Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, Thomas Jesse Jones who was Educational Director of the Phelps Stokes Fund, Henry M. Minton, M.D. of Philadelphia, Herbert Bayard Swope who was executive director of The New York World,and Liberian Entertainments Company which showed films in Liberia. Official correspondence includes comments on the status of the situation in Liberia, economic activity, foreign and commercial relations with Britain, Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, problems with Legation personnel, role of the United States in Liberia, and corruption and incompetency among Liberian officials.
A variety of printed matter also comprises this series, some beyond the 1946 date of Walton's ambassadorship. Included are texts of addresses delivered by presidents of Liberia C. D. B. King and Edwin Barclay, reports, a publicity program and text of Walton's address relating to President Tubman's 1961 visit to the United States, and news clippings pertaining to Liberia published in that country and the United States.
The GENERAL CORRESPONDENCEseries, 1911-1965, for the most part was maintained separately by Walton, hence this order has been kept. There is substantial correspondence pertaining to Liberia following Walton's 1946 resignation, including correspondence with George Padmore, American ambassador to Liberia in the 1950's and Clarence L. Simpson, Vice President of Liberia, 1944-1952, who became Ambassador to the United States in 1952. There is also correspondence relating to newspapers and organizations such as Tuskegee Institute, Universal Negro Improvement Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, African Methodist Episcopal Church and other religious and community groups. A few of Walton's numerous correspondents in this series are Charles C. Huitt, Hulan E. Jack, Henry M. Minton, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., Herbert Bayard Swope and William V. S. Tubman. Correspondence with friends and colleagues and invitations are included in this series. There are also numerous Christmas cards from friends, colleagues and professional associates.
The Political Activities and City of New York Affairs series 1925-1964, includes an article Walton wrote on capitalizing “N” in the word Negro, press releases and correspondence pertaining to the Atlanta based Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice and material regarding African Americans during World War II, correspondence with New York City's Mayor Robert F. Wagner and Walton's activities in Democratic Party campaigns, which includes substantial correspondence with James A. Farley.
The subseries New York City Commission on Human Rights,1955-1965, includes records pertaining to the establishment of the Commission, reports, minutes of meetings, press releases, newsletters, and material regarding discrimination in housing, including reports and transcripts of hearings. News clippings deal with Walton's 1965 retirement from the Commission.
PRINTED MATTER, 1926-1953consists of numerous news clippings including articles written by and about Walton, published material regarding World War II, Haile Selassie's visit to New York in 1954, newsletters of civil rights and religious groups, printed matter re race relations, schools, Walton's home town of St. Louis, Missouri, United Nations reports and fraternal organizations. There is also material regarding African countries other than Liberia. Note that printed matter concerned with Liberia has been placed in the series “American Representative to Liberia.”