Arts & Activism in the Archives – Rose Library & Science Gallery Atlanta

by Gaby Hale, Outreach Archivist at Rose Library.  

Rose Library is honored to play a small role in Science Gallery Atlanta’s newest exhibition, “JUSTICE”, where we will offer finding aids to some of our related collections.

In their words, “This exhibition season invites researchers, artists, and audiences to contemplate and reimagine some of the current big ideas in our society that have local and global impact—criminal justice, labor practices, transit, climate change, housing, food access, health inequity, data agency, and more.” We hope that you will visit JUSTICE yourself to see the amazing, thoughtful work of these artists. Likewise, we hope you will feel inspired to take action in your own life to help build a better future for all.

Rose Library’s Reading Room, where patrons can view materials.

For some, that journey might include visiting us at Rose Library! To do so, you can begin by searching our collections in the search bar on our website’s main page. Once you know what you would like to view during your visit, make an appointment and request those items. [We require appointments to ensure that you have the best experience possible – it gives us time to request materials from our off-site storage location.] You can learn more about how to request items and make an appointment on our website.  

Modern day archives are not relics – they are living, breathing spaces where minds can meet and where the past informs the present.  

We welcome hundreds of visitors to Rose every year, including classes on a wide variety of topics.

Rose Library holds over 3 miles worth of boxes, and we receive new donations every year. One of our collection strengths is political, cultural, and social movements, especially in Atlanta and the south. We have materials related to housing in Atlanta, the AIDS crisis, the Civil Rights Movement, women’s rights, and so much more. Many of these collections come from people who were artists and activists with their own unique perspective on the challenges they were facing. Other collections come from organizations that were formed to fight back against the inequalities they were experiencing or seeing. Regardless of the source, these collections highlight the remarkable changes in the region over the last 150 years. They also inform us of where we as a society have come from, and where we might go next.

We know that it can be overwhelming to dive into our collections without a starting point, so here are ten collections that YOU have access to and can visit us to see related to the themes of JUSTICE: 

 1. Charles F. Palmer Papers

Letter from Charles Palmer, dated June 2,1934

Charles Forrest Palmer (December 29, 1892 – June 16, 1973) was an Atlanta real estate developer, office building owner and manager, and a noted authority on public housing and urban redevelopment. Following other housing projects and military service, he organized Techwood Homes, one of the first efforts at slum clearance in the United States by the Public Works Administration and assisted in the development of its companion project, University Homes. 

The Charles Palmer Papers include correspondence, reports, manuscripts, speeches and diaries, covering practically the full extent of Palmer’s life, from 1903 to his death in 1973; photographs of public housing and urban redevelopment projects in the United States (especially those in Atlanta), Europe, and the Third World from 1934 to 1952; thirteen scrapbooks containing both articles written about Palmer and those which he wrote himself; one scrapbook of clippings about Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and twenty films produced in the late-1930s and 1940s about American and European slum clearance projects and new town settlements. 

 2. Rebecca Ranson papers, 1906-2013  

Photo of Ranson, from the ARTS ATL.

Rebecca Ranson (1943 – 2017) was a Southern lesbian playwright, author, and activist. The causes she advocated for include civil rights, LGBTQIA+, prison reform, and HIV/AIDS. Over her lifetime, Ranson wrote over 30 plays, including one of the first plays about HIV/AIDS, which was inspired by the life of her close friend, Warren Johnston. Ranson also cofounded SAME (Southeast Arts, Media, and Education) in Atlanta, which produced plays, a literary magazine, a newspaper, festivals, events, and participated in in the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad. Ranson’s life and papers demonstrate how art and activism are often intertwined.  

The Rebecca Ranson Papers includes writings, correspondence, journals, subject files, printed material, photographs, audiovisual material, and born digital material that document her career as a playwright, author, and activist. The items often reflect the subject matter in her plays, but also touch on topics from her formative years such as issues with her parents, becoming pregnant at 17, and her realization of her changing sexuality. There are also writings by others which include poems and short stories sent to Ranson by people with whom Ranson was personally involved as well as inmates that Ranson met through her prison activism and members of Atlanta’s LGBT community. In addition to her personal papers, Rose Library holds the records of SAME. 

 3. Bruce Garner papers, circa 1980-2000  

Button from Rose Library’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer collection.

Bruce Garner (1949 – present) is a LGBTQIA+ and HIV/AIDS activist from Atlanta Georgia. From 1973 until his retirement in 2008, Garner worked for the Social Security Administration. He is deeply involved in the fight against AIDS in Atlanta, and has worked with numerous groups and committees. He has also volunteered extensively with All Saints Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, serving on the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s Commission on AIDS in multiple capacities. Upon being appointed to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta HIV Services Planning Council in 2022, Garner said: “As one who has lived with HIV for what will soon be 40 years, this is work that is close to my heart in more ways than one. My undeserved white privilege has given me access to all I need to live with HIV. Racism, among other related issues has created barriers for people of color since the epidemic began. We are called to do more for our black and brown siblings.” 

His collection consists of the papers of Bruce Garner from circa 1980-2000 and includes subject files, printed material, and audiovisual material. The collection primarily documents Garner’s HIV/AIDS activism, including his work on the State of Georgia Task Force on AIDS. 

4. Frances Freeborn Pauley papers, 1919-1992  

Pamphlet for the Georgia Council on Human Relations.

Frances Freeborn Pauley (1905 – 2009) was a human rights and civil rights activist that grew up in Decatur, Georgia. Pauley’s social consciousness began to develop during the Great Depression, while raising a young family and doing volunteer work for a church-sponsored free dental clinic. During that time, she organized community support and helped raise $25,000 to begin a program of providing hot lunches at every school in DeKalb County. In her lifetime, Pauley held various official roles that supported desegregation, Black voter rights, adult education, welfare, and energy assistance.  

The Frances Freeborn Pauley papers consist of a wide variety of material types including correspondence, diaries, organizational records, subject files, clippings, and memorabilia. The collection dates from 1919-1992, with the bulk of the papers dating from ca. 1957-1992. This collection is strong in its representation of civil rights and social welfare issues prevalent from the mid 1950s to the present time. 

 5. Joan C. Browning papers, 1961-2006 

Letter from Browning, written on a paper towel while she was in jail.

Joan C. Browning (c.1943 – present) is a civil rights activist who participated in the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s. Browning grew up in rural South Georgia and was the first in her family to attend college. She started college in 1960 at Georgia State College for Women (Milledgeville, Ga.) and was asked to leave after worshipping at a black church. She moved to Atlanta in 1961 and became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. On December 10, 1961, Browning was among eight Freedom Riders who traveled on a segregated Georgia Central Railroad from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia. Upon their arrival in Albany, the Freedom Riders were arrested, incarcerated, and eventually charged with unlawful assembly. She continued to work in human relations and anti-poverty programs throughout the 1960s and helped organize the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Browning eventually earned her Bachelor of Arts from West Virginia State College and became a free-lance writer. 

Her papers include correspondence, writings, and other materials pertaining mostly to her involvement as a Freedom Rider in the Albany Movement in Georgia. The Albany Movement/Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee materials consist of Browning’s letters from jail in Albany, Georgia, to her friend, Faye Powell, who resided in Atlanta. Browning writes about jail conditions, the importance of non-violent protest, the police officers in charge, her hunger strike, and the other individuals who were arrested. Also available are several letters or notes written by her fellow civil rights workers, mainly James Forman, Lenora Taitt, and Per W. Laursen, who were incarcerated with her. 

 6. Jim Alexander Photographs  

Photo of Jim Alexander.

Jim Alexander (1935 – present) is a celebrated Atlanta photographer of Black politicians, athletes, activists, artists, and authors. His successful photography career began shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he began a project he calls the “Spirits/Martyrs/Heroes”. Alexander is a member of several important photography and Black arts groups. His photographs have been featured in numerous exhibitions and can be found in the holdings of institutions such as the Smithsonian (Washington, D.C.); The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (Atlanta, Georgia); the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa); the University of Delaware (Newark); the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, Atlanta Airport Collection (Georgia); the Hammonds House Museum (Atlanta, Georgia), and the Harvey B. Gantt Center (Charlotte, North Carolina). 

Photo by Jim Alexander.

The collection consists of photograph prints, negatives, slides, and contact sheets of images taken by Jim Alexander from circa 1960-2022, including images of prominent African American politicians, athletes, activists, authors, and artists. The collection contains photographs of Romare Bearden, Pearl Cleage, Angela Davis, Michael Lomax, Edwin Moses, Andrew Young, and Jean Childs Young, among others. The photographs also document significant events, both locally and globally.


 7. Southern Christian Leadership Conference Records  

Photo from the SCLC Records.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1957 in the wake of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The organization was originally named the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, and its initial mission was to integrate transportation systems throughout the south. However, the organization quickly broadened its scope to include ending all forms of segregation and achieving social justice for the disenfranchised. Under the leadership of its first president, Martin Luther King, Jr., the SCLC was a major force in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and an integral player in iconic events such as the March on Washington (1963) and voter registration efforts in Mississippi and Alabama. 

This collection of over 1,300 boxes includes materials that document the nonviolent direct action initiatives of the organization, including boycotts, marches, rallies, protests, hearings, and other programs designed to secure and protect civil rights in America. The records reflect not only the day to day administration of the organization, but also the planning and management of special programming and events, and the involvement of individual leaders in the wider religious, political, and civil rights communities. 

 8.Emory Desegregation Collection  

Call to action, from the Emory Desegregation Records.

The move toward desegregation of Emory University had its beginnings in November of 1958 when the faculty issued a statement opposing the closing of public schools as a protest against racial integration. This statement was followed in May of 1960 with a resolution from the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences requested that Emory host a meeting of all church-related and private colleges in the Atlanta area to “explore the directions of development that are seen to be desirable by both white and Negro educational institutions …” The request was denied, but the Emory Board of Trustees eventually reconsidered and made changes in university policy in favor of the admission of students of any race. However, state laws which denied tax-exemption privileges to schools that became racially integrated caused issues in this process. Ultimately, in March of 1962, Emory filed a petitions in Fulton and Dekalb Superior Courts challenging the laws. Emory appealed to the Georgia State Supreme Court when Dekalb County rejected Emory’s arguments. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of Emory in September of 1962. 

Flyer from the Black Student Alliance of Emory.

This collection consists of records documenting the process of desegregation and other events relating to racial issues at Emory. Included are documents summarizing the process of integration; copies of various statements issued by Emory faculty and students; a copy of the Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunction to the Superior Court of Dekalb County; accounts of activities surrounding campus racial protests that occurred in 1969 (print and audio); and information and video recordings concerning more recent events that took place in the 1990s. 

 9. Universal Negro Improvement Association Records  

Ticket for admission to a carnival supporting UNIA

The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) was founded in Jamaica on August 1, 1914, by Marcus Garvey. The UNIA was dedicated to racial pride, economic self-sufficiency, and the formation of an independent Black nation in Africa. 

The collection contains records of the Universal Negro Improvement Association from 1916, 1921-1989. Correspondence includes letters to and from Presidents General Marcus Garvey, Thomas W. Harvey, and William L. Sherrill. The administrative records relate to the UNIA parent body and its divisions and include minutes of meetings, policies and procedures, and various reports. The photographs include images relating to the UNIA, in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean Islands. The writings series contains manuscripts and typescripts by several key UNIA officials including presidents. The printed material series includes broadsides advertising various UNIA-sponsored events; brochures relating information about the purpose, programs, and goals of the UNIA; and programs of the UNIA events.  

 10 Newsweek Atlanta Bureau Records 

Poster from the Newsweek Atlanta Bureau Records.

The Atlanta Bureau of Newsweek, inc., was the hub of Newsweek magazine’s Southern network. It was established in 1953. Beginning with the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case in 1953, which called for the desegregation of public schools, the Atlanta Bureau mostly reported on civil rights issues. Correspondents throughout the South sent articles and releases containing explicit details, descriptions, and quotations to the Atlanta office.  

The collection consists entirely of subject files from the Atlanta Bureau of Newsweek magazine from 1953-1979. These subject files were created during the process of researching and writing a story. Topics featured in the subject files include southern politics, education, business, media, crime, society, athletics, progress, expansion, and civil rights. Southern perspectives on national, political, and social concerns are also featured. The subject files are arranged alphabetically by topic or by the state and city in which events took place. 


The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library is a resource for not only the Emory community, but for everyone. We hope to see you soon!