By Lowery Project Team Members Amber L. Moore (Project Archivist) and Cathy Miller (Digitization Project Manager), Atlanta University Center’s Woodruff Library
In May 2021, the family of late civil rights icons Joseph and Evelyn Lowery have gifted a priceless collection of official and personal papers, photographs, writings, speeches, audio and video recordings, and other mementos to Morehouse College. The Joseph Echols and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Collection includes over 400 linear feet of invaluable materials chronicling the Lowerys’ work with civil and human rights leaders.
Over the next several months, grant funded project archivists and archival assistants will provide expert care to organize, describe, and digitize the collection to ensure broad accessibility – both physically and digitally. The Joseph Echols and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Collection expands the body of primary-sourced materials available for teaching, learning and research in the Atlanta University Center and to scholars around the globe.
Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, called the “dean of the civil rights movement,” helped create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and served as founding vice president alongside founding president Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He later served as SCLC chairman and as president and CEO. During the historic Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights in Alabama, which commenced with the violent beating of nonviolent marchers on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” Lowery led the delegation delivering a list of demands to segregationist former Alabama Governor George Wallace. His peaceful activism for justice resulted in numerous arrests and having his property seized by the state of Alabama in a historic libel suit, which resulted in a vindication by the U.S. Supreme Court and a precedent protecting the free speech rights of the press and citizen advocates.
Evelyn Gibson Lowery was a civil rights pioneer and change agent. She established SCLC/ W.O.M.E.N. (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc.), which instituted programs on global issues including HIV/AIDS, computer and GED education for women, mentoring for girls, and civil rights history. She created 13 monuments honoring civil rights heroes while also creating a civil rights heritage tour. She graduated from Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University.
The Joseph Echols and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Collection will be archived and curated at the Atlanta University Center (AUC) Robert W. Woodruff Library and used to provide scholars, researchers, students, and the general public with an authentic understanding of the impact, sacrifice, and legacy of these civil rights pioneers. Select audiovisual and textual materials are in the process of being digitized from the collection and made available through the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library’s online repository, RADAR. Currently, the digital collection contains a mix of videos documenting activities of the SCLC and SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., photographs, and full text searchable versions of SCLC Magazine, the national magazine of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The digitized assets from The Joseph Echols and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Collection can be explored here.
This will be the first in a series of posts here to the SGA blog where the Lowery Collection team will be sharing information about our processes and stories discovered from the collections during the work of processing and digitization. We hope you will be as excited to read these posts as we are to share the information with you.