Scope and arrangement
The August Meier Papers document the formative years and career of this scholar, writer, professor, and editor of late nineteenth and twentieth century black America. The collection consists primarily of personal papers, notes and drafts for his Ph.D. dissertation, records from his teaching career including files for his Kent State University graduate students, correspondence with colleagues and publishers of his own books and articles, and correspondence and manuscripts for books submitted for possible inclusion in two series related to blacks in the United States of which Meier was an editor. Additionally the collection encompasses his published articles, conference papers, speeches and lectures; as well as his role in professional organizations, the grants and fellowships he received, and his consultancies. The papers are strong in civil rights research materials including numerous interviews Meier and his colleague Elliott Rudwick conducted with participants, printed material and notes related to Baltimore and various geographical areas Meier was interested, copies of records of the legal and educational offices of the NAACP Meier and Elliott Rudwick gathered for research purposes, and some records of the Newark, New Jersey branch of the NAACP which Meier helped create during his tenure as secretary in the 1950's. Many national and Southern civil rights organizations such as SNCC as well as pertinent subject files are represented by printed material and Meier's notes. Research files for publications authored by Meier include notes, printed material and some manuscripts, spanning the period of Meier's first publication in 1947 to one of his latest in 1988. He had made a selection of his writings to include in his papers prior to the donation of the collection of the Schomburg Center. The collection concludes with his research files for unpublished material and a file on Elliott Rudwick.
The August Meier papers are arranged in ten series:
The ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Newark Branch series, 1948-1958 (.6 lin. ft.) reflects Meier's role as secretary from 1951-1952 and then again in 1957. The Newark Branch records consist of the constitution and by-laws, directory of members, a resolution on Jim Crow in the armed forces, minutes of meetings, and other resolutions. There is correspondence soliciting support for the integration program of the Newark Housing Authority in addition to civil rights legislation considered by Congress in 1957 (unpassed), newsletters of the (Newark) Mayor's Commission on Group Relations, and material regarding the Fair Employment Practice Commission sought by the National Emergency Civil Rights Mobilization (1950).
The series TEACHING CAREER, 1932-1995 (3.2 lin. ft.) spans Meier's long career as a history professor at six colleges. Tougaloo College is represented by minutes Meier took of College Council meetings, an article he wrote after his departure about his evaluation of Tougaloo fulfilling its role as an educational institution for African Americans, printed material and photographs. For Fisk University there is correspondence with Preston King, Meier's undergraduate student discussing their common interests in black intellectual thought, Meier's participation in civil rights activities, as well as King's dispute with the United States military and his self exile to London. Meier's position as Charles S. Johnson's research assistant is documented by notes prepared for Johnson's speeches and articles, and correspondence pertaining to Negro History Week celebrations. There is also material documenting a course on African-American history. Meier's annual reports provide information on his teaching career at Morgan State College.
Kent State University served as Meier's "home port" for twenty-five years and is where he trained a significant number of graduate students. These files reveal Meier's relationship with his graduate students and includes assessments by commitees regarding the acceptance of the applicant as a graduate student. Some correspondence between students and Meier, members of the dissertation committee, and administrators regarding students' status and progress, especially at the dissertation writing level is available. A few files include essay exams, reading lists, administrative material, job references, lists of dissertation committee members and their assessment of the student, and papers (some published). Correspondence indicates an ongoing relationship with some of his students after they obtained their Ph.D.'s and secured professional positions. Students represented in the collection include Elsa Barkley Brown, Leroy Davis, William Hine, Reginald Kearney, Paul Lammermeier, Christopher Reed, and Tyrone Tillery. Lastly, these files include letters of gratitude written for Meier's 1993 retirement.
Additional files for Kent State University includes material Meier distributed for his honors section on the history of civilization, such as chapter notes, study and review questions, exam questions, and lecture notes. For a colloquium he taught called "Black Protest Movement in the Twentieth Century" there are assignments, quizzes, bibliographies, and outlines for class discussions. Papers by Harold Baron, Robert Curvin, George Wiley and others from a conference on civil rights that Meier organized are included. Meier's efforts in building the Kent State University library's African-American collection between 1969-1986 through the purchase of microfilm is also documented.
The series PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1945-1998 (5.2 lin. ft.) covers Meier's career excluding his teaching and editorship positions. The series is divided into six subseries: Consultancies; Writings - Published Articles; Conference Papers, Speeches and Lectures; Professional Affiliations; Grants and Scholarships; National Endowment for the Humanities.
Of particular interest is the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT RESEARCH FILES, 1940-1995, (bulk 1942-1979) (14 lin. ft.) which includes an Interviews subseries, 1961-1985, (1961-1971 bulk) (.8 lin. ft.), consisting of hundreds of interviews Meier and his colleague, Elliott Rudwick, conducted with individuals regarding their roles in the civil rights movement. The bulk of the interviews were conducted for Meier and Rudwick's book CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968. Included are interviews conducted with CORE leaders at both the national level and local chapters. Other organizations represented in the interviews are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Southern Regional Council, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the National Action Council, and the Council of Federated Organizations. Among the numerous interviewees are: Julian Bond, John H. Bracey, Gordon Carey, Ronald Corvin, Gloster Current, Robert Curvin, St. Clair Drake, Leslie Dunbar, James and Lula Farmer, Charles Hamilton, Aaron Henry, Herbert Hill, Norman Hill, Carl Holman, Genevive Hughes, Roy and Doris Innis, Sam and Fredericka Kushner, Charles McDew, Floyd McKissick, Charles Oldham, Carl Rachlin, Marvin Rich, James R. Robinson, Ralph Rosenfeld, Phyllis Ryan, Mark Solomon, Herbert Wright, Andrew Young and Whitney Young. A complete list is available as an appendix to this finding aid.
Interviews were conducted either by telephone or in person and were not taped. They were open ended and varied in length from a single page to approximately 30 pages. The interviews are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically for individuals who were interviewed on more than one occasion.
The RESEARCH FILES FOR PUBLICATION series (23.8 lin. ft.) encompass notes, drafts, reference material, printed material, correspondence and data for only thirteen of Meier's numerous books and articles. Meier and Rudwick retained sample research files in order to provide insight into the ways they did their research and writing, therefore only certain files were kept. For example, most of the data gathered about streetcar boycotts were discarded. Similar material for Meier's other publications was not retained. This large series has been arranged chronologically by publication date of Meier's work.
The series RESEARCH FILES - UNPUBLISHED MATERIAL consists of material for two of Meier's unfinished projects, the "History of the Negro Upper Class, circa 1890-1950" and a history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Although he originally planned to write a history of the NAACP, he decided later to focus on the labor issue only.
The "Negro Upper Class Study," 1958-1960 (1.6 lin. ft.) subseries was slated to be a follow-up study to his earlier publication, "History of the Negro Upper Class in Atlanta, Georgia, 1890-1958." There are notes, newsclippings, articles and research correspondence. The cities covered include New Orleans, Baltimore, Durham (North Carolina), Charleston (South Carolina), Philadelphia, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.
This extensive collection concludes with the ELLIOTT RUDWICK series, 1960-1983 (2 lin. ft.) which contains a modest amount of material reflecting Rudwick's and Meier's joint projects. Included are Rudwick's vita and bibliographies, papers presented about black Detroit, the Congress for Racial Equality, and black nationalism, his consultancy with the United States Commission on Civil Rights, 1962-1963, and a partial manuscript about the history of blacks in East St. Louis, IL. There is also reference material about the Illinois State Conference of NAACP branches, labor, 1960's, and student papers about blacks in Ohio. The series concludes with Rudwick's reprints.