Longtime University Professor Donates Papers to Memphis Public Library

Miriam DeCosta-Willis, who was a university professor for more than 40 years, has donated her papers to the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in Memphis. 

Dr. DeCosta-Willis was born in Florence, Alabama, and studied foreign languages as an undergraduate student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In 1960 she earned a master’s degree in Romance languages from Johns Hopkins University. She then moved to Memphis and became active in the civil rights movement. She was the first African-American faculty member at what is now the University of Memphis. She returned to Johns Hopkins to earn a Ph.D. in 1968. She later chaired the department of Romance languages at Howard University and also taught at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Now 76 years old, DeCosta-Willis has donated her collection of articles, academic papers, unpublished manuscripts, newspaper clippings, funeral programs, letters, and photographs to the public library. The library will make the archive accessible to researchers and the general public.