Atlanta’s Own: Sadye Harris Powell

smaller_hewitt_press_0Rare scrapbooks that document African American life in the United States from 1890-1975 are being preserved with support through a “Save America’s Treasures” (SAT) grant. The project is a collaborative effort with Emory University Preservation Office, Digitization Center, and the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). The SAT grant is awarded through the Department of Interior and the National Park Service, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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atl-spelman-hist-markerSadye Harris Powell (1889-1964) was an African American nurse from Atlanta, Georgia, born in 1889 to William A. and Aurelia Virginia Harris. She graduated in 1910 from Spelman High School, the precursor and original form of Spelman College. After pursuing her nursing education at Provident Hospital and Training School of Chicago (1912), Sadye Harris served as head nurse at the Fair Haven Hospital, previously located at Morris Brown University in Atlanta.

galsHarris married Charles W. Powell, and in 1928, they together founded the William A. Harris Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, named after her father. This hospital was located on Hunter Street and was one of few modern and well-equipped institutions of its kind. Mrs. Sadye Harris Powell acted as superintendent of the hospital.

two_on_stepsPowell was very active in social welfare programs. During her lifetime of service to the community, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Girls’ Club, the first life member of the YWCA, a life member of the NAACP, and an officer in the Women’s Auxiliary of the Atlanta Medical Society. In 1948, she was elected to the board of trustees for Spelman College. Sadye Harris Powell died February 26, 1964 and is buried in Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery.

granme_0The Sadye Harris Powell collection at Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library consists of papers (dated 1910-1991) belonging to her family. The papers include photographs of family members, incorporation papers for the William A. Harris Memorial Hospital, and five scrapbooks. There is also printed material from Atlanta churches, colleges, and African American organizations as well as other family correspondence.

powell_1a_pg_87_abc_football_0Of the five scrapbooks, one documents the Atlanta Baptist College football championship team in 1910. Another photo album includes images of Cuba and was created by an African American member of the United States Maritime Service. This album is full of images from Europe and of World War II servicemen. Currently unknown is the relationship to Sadye Harris Powell of the soldier who figures prominently in this scrapbook.

fold_out_cardThe two remaining scrapbooks photographically document family life, academic scenes, and social gatherings. One album has early black and white images, adhered to very fragile pages yet missing its original book covers. The last scrapbook holds contemporary color photographs, plus personal cards and letters, celebrating a retirement party.


All items within this album had been attached by stripes of adhesive to each page, though no book covers were retained.



By Kim Norman, Conservator, Emory University Libraries Preservation Office

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