Arnold De Mille Papers

by Christopher Harter, Director of Library and Reference Services, Amistad Research Center

“Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations” is a collaborative project between Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and The Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each organization regularly contributes blog posts about their progress.

For more information about the collection described in this post, please contact the Amistad Research Center, reference [at] amistadresearchcenter [dot] org

Journalist and photographer Arnold De Mille (1908-1996) spent his career capturing the African American experience for publications such as the Negro World (1927-1932), Newspic (1940-1942), and both the Chicago Defender and the New York Age Defender (1950-1955). He served under the Federal Writers Project, WPA (1937-1939) and joined Milady Publishing Corporation in 1944 as a photographer-writer, with his works appearing in early cosmetology textbooks. As a United Nations news photographer (1948-1961) and correspondent (1978-1987), De Mille traveled the world to interview world leaders and to document their countries.  He also worked for the City of New York as the assistant personnel director and served as the press relations director for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund under Thurgood Marshall.

The processing of the Arnold De Mille Papers is progressing smoothly. All the series but two have been completed and we recently finished the preservation and housing of Mr. De Mille’s more famous images, which include black and white prints and slides of notable African Americans such as Bob Howard, Paul Robeson, Satchel Paige, Adam Clayton Powell, Ethel Waters, and Mary McCleod Bethune, to name a few. Staff also discoverd a number of De Mille’s color images from the March on Washington.

Next, we will be focusing on his work in the beauty culture industry, which spans over forty years of his career.